Symptoms Of Low White Blood Cell Count
Given that it is a symptom in and of itself, leukopenia can be accompanied by a myriad of other signs depending on what the underlying cause is. However, there are a few common effects the body will experience when your white blood cell count drops. Here are some to look out for.
Anemia: A low red blood cell count can often occur alongside leukopenia as the body begins to lose red blood cells without enough white blood cells to protect them. This results in fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, pale skin, leg cramps, and insomnia.
Ulcers:Stomach ulcers are caused by the H. pylori bacteria, which is commonly present but normally held in check. As white blood cell count drops, these buggers can get more active and create sores along the intestinal lining.
Parasites: There are a surprisingly large number of parasites that you encounter on a daily basis, but most are shrugged off or killed. With leukopenia, you become more vulnerable to infection.
Recurrent Illnesses: As you might expect, low white blood cell count can cause you to experience recurrent bouts of illness. These bouts do not necessarily have to be severe, but they will likely seem harder to treat without the bodys defenses at their normal strength. Additionally, you will be more vulnerable to pneumonia as bacteria have an easier time colonizing the lungs.
How Are Low Blood Counts Diagnosed
A test called the complete blood count is used to determine whether your blood counts are low. The CBC measures the levels of the three basic blood cells: red, white, and platelets.
In the United States, the CBC is typically reported in the format shown below. If your blood counts fall outside of the normal range, which is shown in the Reference interval column, their values will be reported in the Flag column with an L for low and an H for high. The example CBC below shows that white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are all low.
|CBC WITH DIFFERENTIAL|
Result column: The result column shows counts that fall within the normal range.
Flag column: The flag column shows counts that are lower or higher than the normal range.
Reference interval column: The reference interval shows the normal range for each measurement for the lab performing the test. Different labs may use different reference intervals.
White blood cells: White blood cells help protect individuals from infections. The above CBC report shows that the patients total white cell count is 1.5, which is lower than the normal range of 4.0-10.5. The low white cell count increases the risk of infection.
Differential: This portion of the CBC shows the counts for the 5 main kinds of white cells, either as percentages , or as the absolute number of cells .
Causes Of Low Levels Specific Types Of White Blood Cells
Some medical conditions lead to a disproportionally low number of one specific type of white blood cells, and other white blood cell counts may be normal. An isolated low level of some types of white blood cells may also be important in predicting the presence of or severity of a disease.
Neutropenia: A low level of neutrophils is often the most concerning of the leukopenia due to the risk of infection. Neutropenia without general leukopenia suggests causes such as autoimmune diseases or vitamin deficiencies whereas conditions involving the bone marrow usually affect all types of white blood cells.
Eosinopenia: A low level of eosinophils is commonly seen with physical or emotional stress , with Cushing’s syndrome, and with acute inflammation. Eosinopenia also appears to be an important marker for sepsis.
Basopenia: A low levels of basophils may be seen with:
- Allergic conditions, such as hives , severe allergies, angioedema, and anaphylaxis
- With high doses or long term use of corticosteroids
- With stress
- During the acute phase of infections or inflammation
- With hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis
Lymphopenia: Lymphopenia without a correspondingly low level of other white blood cells is not very common but can be very important in some cases or provide helpful information. Causes may include:
Lymphocyte counts tend to drop with normal aging, although lymphopenia appears to correlate with the overall risk of death in adults in the U.S.
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What Can I Do To Avoid/prevent A Low White Blood Cell Count
To minimize the chances of certain diseases and a low white blood cell count:
- Practice good hygiene. For instance, wash your hands after using the bathroom and before cooking.
- Be careful around pets and other animals that might transmit infections.
- Make sure foods are thoroughly cooked before eating them.
- Stay away from people who have infections.
- Practice safe sex avoid drugs and sharing needles.
What Causes Low White Blood Cell Count
White blood cells are produced in the bodys bone marrow. When you are sick, production is ramped up as a countermeasure. Consequently, conditions that can cause leukopenia are ones that either kill leukocytes faster than they can be produced or which interfere with the bone marrow in some way.
Viral Infection: Viruses can cause leukopenia by both slowing the function of bone marrow and by killing off white blood cells. The most telling example of this function is HIV and AIDS, which can kill off and devastate the bodys white blood cells if allowed to act freely. Although not all viruses can have this sort of effect, most that have some influence on bones or the immune system have the potential to do so.
Autoimmune Disease: This is a type of condition where the body is attacked by its own defenses. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, can result in your bone marrow becoming attacked and consequently slowing down white blood cell production.
Medication or Other Treatments: Some medicines, like antibiotics or diuretic drugs, can temporarily lower the level of white blood cells in the body. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are also capable of causing leukopenia because they are used to kill fast-growing cells and leukocytes can get caught in the way. Drugs meant to reduce an immune response, such as antihistamines or anti-rejection meds, can also have this effect.
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Absolute Vs Relative Leukopenia
When looking at the number of white blood cells on a complete blood count, it’s important to note that only a minority of the white blood cells present in the body circulate in the bloodstream. For this reason, the number can sometimes shift quite rapidly.
Only around 2% to 3% of mature leukocytes are circulating freely in the blood. Roughly 80% to 90% remain in the bone marrow, stored in case they might be needed quickly. The remainder of white blood cells line blood vessels so that they do not freely circulate . Once in the bloodstream, white blood cells live on average from two to 16 days.
A number of conditions can cause the white blood cells lining the blood vessels to enter the circulation , such as shock, heavy exercise, or great stress. This may cause a white count that is actually low to appear normal. In contrast, dilution of the blood, such as when a person receives a plasma transfusion, may artificially lower the white blood cell count.
What To Do If You Have Symptoms
Its a good idea to see your doctor if you have signs or symptoms that are unusual, severe, or dont go away.
Leukemia symptoms are often overlooked because they can mimic those of other common illnesses, such as the flu.
If your physician suspects leukemia, he might perform a physical exam, routine bloodwork, or a bone marrow test .
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Ways To Prevent Covid
There may not be many ways to prevent having a low blood count. Typically, a low WBC count is the result of an infection or a condition, or of a medication that you need.
You can, however, take steps to protect yourself against COVID-19, and you should be extra vigilant with these steps if you know you have a low WBC count. Usually, people with low WBC counts are educated on how to prevent an infection, and much of that guidance mirrors the strategies to avoid COVID-19, such as:
- Wear a mask.
- Avoid large crowds, especially indoors.
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect the areas around you frequently.
Unlike with some other infections like HIV, you can also be vaccinated against COVID-19. Recent spikes in infection have proven the effectiveness of the vaccine, with far more unvaccinated people being hospitalized with the virus than vaccinated people.
Symptoms Of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
If the AML cancer cells, called blasts, become very high in number, they can cause a serious condition known as leukostasis, which literally means slowing of the normal blood flow due to congestion. This can lead to symptoms such as:
- Blurry vision or loss of vision
Some people with AML may have bone or joint pain if the leukemia builds up in the bone marrow in these areas.
If AML spreads to the skin, it can cause spots that look like a rash. Certain types of AML may affect the gums, causing pain, swelling, and bleeding. Enlarged lumps under the skin of the neck, groin, underarms, or collarbone are a sign that the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
When cancer cells collect in the liver or spleen, the organs may enlarge and cause swelling of the abdomen or a feeling of fullness.
People with a certain type of AML, known as acute promyelocytic leukemia , may have bleeding and clotting problems.
If AML spreads to your brain or spinal cord, it could cause:
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Are There Any Risks To The Test
After a blood test, you may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
There is very little risk to your baby or child with a needle stick test. Your child may feel a little pinch when the site is poked, and a small bruise may form at the site. This should go away quickly.
Definition Of Low White Blood Cell Count
The correct term for a blood test or exam is called complete blood count or CBC. Doctors often order a CBC because it analyzes the numbers of cell components, including white blood cells. The normal threshold for white blood cell count may differ. Mayo Clinic states that the normal range is 3.5 billion to 10.5 billion cells per liter of blood. Meanwhile, MEDLINE Plus states that the normal 4,500 to 11,000 white blood cells per microliter .
A CBC is the only way to determine the numbers of white blood cells in the body. Your doctor may order several CBC tests to monitor your blood cell counts.
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Conditions That Affect The Bone Marrow
Anything that interferes with the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow may potentially lead to leukopenia, including:
- Infiltration of the bone marrow: Infiltration of the bone marrow can disrupt the process of blood cell formation. Metastases to the bone marrow can similarly lead to leukopenia. Cancers that tend to spread to the bone marrow include breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, and stomach cancer.
- Bone marrow disorders, including aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, multiple myeloma, myelofibrosis
Low White Blood Cell Count : Meaning Causes Ranges
White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, account for less than 1% of your blood cells, but are very important for health and protection against disease. These are the cells that defend the body against viruses and bacteria. Having a low or elevated white blood cell count can indicate a range of disorders relating to the blood and bone marrow.
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Low White Blood Cell Count Causes
Low white blood cell count is often caused by problems with the bone marrow where they are made. The bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside of bones which is responsible for creating most of the bodys blood cells.
Certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, and treatments such as chemotherapy can damage the bone marrows ability to create white blood cells. Chemicals such as benzene and certain pesticides can also damage the bone marrow.
Another common cause for a low white blood cell count is infection. An infection can affect the bone marrow and make it difficult for the body to produce white blood cells. Also, when the body is fighting a particularly severe infection, the rate of white cell production, even when stepped up in response, may not keep up with the rate at which white blood cells are being used up in combating the disease.
Other causes of leukopenia include autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which cause the body to attack its own white blood cells. Certain medications can also destroy white blood cells. Vitamin deficiency, excessive alcohol consumption and generally poor diet can also lower a white blood cell count.
Low White Blood Cell Count Symptoms
A low white blood cell count could be an indication of some underlying disease or disorder. Here is a brief overview about the symptoms and common causes of the condition.
A low white blood cell count could be an indication of some underlying disease or disorder. Here is a brief overview about the symptoms and common causes of the condition.
White blood cells comprise an important part of the bodys immune system. Otherwise known as leukocytes, white blood cells fight pathogens and foreign materials that enter the body. These cells are found all over the body, including the blood and the lymphatic vessels. White blood cells are produced by stem cells in the bone marrow, and the name is derived from their color.
There are different types of white blood cells with varying functions. They include neutrophils, lymphocytes, basophils, eosinophils, and monocytes. Studies show that around 1% of the human blood comprises white blood cells. The normal white blood cell count in one liter of human blood ranges between 4 to 11 million. A substantial increase or decrease in this number could be an indication of some underlying medical condition.
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What Causes Low Blood Counts
The most common reason cancer patients experience low blood counts is as a side effect of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by destroying cells that grow rapidly, a characteristic of cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also affects normal cells that grow rapidly, such as cells in the bone marrow that produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
If Your Normal Is Lower Than The Defined Normal Range
percentage of the population that has a lower resting state level of white blood cellsdo not necessarily predispose you for an increased risk of infection
If you have a history WBC levels just below the 4.0 thousands/L normal cutoff and you havent experienced a high incidence of illness throughout your life, you likely just have a lower resting state. It is still important to discuss your findings with your physician to rule out the need for any additional testing.
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What Are The Treatments For Low Blood Counts
The best treatment for low blood counts is to prevent them before they occur. This can be accomplished with the administration of blood cell growth factors. Blood cell growth factors are substances produced by the body that stimulate the cells in the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. These factors have also been produced in a laboratory and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cancer patients with low blood counts.
Low red blood cell counts: Erythropoietin is a blood cell growth factor that selectively increases production of red blood cells. Clinical trials have demonstrated that erythropoietin is safe and effective in reversing anemia in cancer patients. Erythropoietin has been proven to effectively:
- Increase hematocrit
- Reverse fatigue
- Improve overall sense of well-being
Erythropoietin is FDA-approved for the treatment of anemia in patients with nonmyeloid cancers , whose anemia is a result of chemotherapy.
Treatment with erythropoietin causes a gradual increase in red blood cell production. The body uses iron in red blood cell production. Thus, supplemental iron may be required to adequately support erythropoietin-stimulated erythropoiesis. Virtually all patients receiving erythropoietin therapy will eventually require supplemental iron therapy.
Spotting The Difference: Cancer Related Fatigue Vs Everyday Fatigue
Each Sunday this year, we’ll be looking at a symptom of leukaemia as part of our #LC50 campaign. This month, we’re focussing on fatigue, and how cancer-related fatigue differs from everyday fatigue. Read all about this symptom and how to spot it.
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Fatigue is by far the most common symptom experienced by blood cancer patients prior to a diagnosis. According to our 2018 patient survey, 56% of leukaemia patients will experience fatigue in the lead up to their diagnosis.
The fatigue that comes with leukaemia or any cancer is known as cancer-related fatigue and it is characterised by extreme or persistent exhaustion that disrupts your daily activities and function. People who have CRF have no energy and find it extremely difficult to complete even the simple, everyday tasks that others take for granted. Spotting the difference between harmless and harmful fatigue may be key in diagnosing leukaemia early.
I was a physical guy, and then all of a sudden, no explanation, I felt like I was in treacle. Very fatigued and very tired.