What is Leukopenia?
There are several components that come together in proper places to form our body. One of them are blood cells – the Red Blood Cells (RBC) and the White Blood Cells (WBC). These cells are available in a proper count to balance the bodily functions. However, when the count gets disturbed, your body gets disturbed. Leukopenia is the condition from which your body suffers when there is an abrupt decrease in the count of the WBC, which are commonly known as leukocytes.
How Important Are WBCs For Your Body?
The bone marrow in our body produces the leukocytes, which are a vital part of the immune system. These help the body to fight off foreign bodies making way into our system, thereby protecting us from diseases and infections. The normal count of leukocytes per microliter of blood is 4000. But if the WBC count is not sufficiently maintained in the body, it causes Leukopenia, also referred to as Leukopenia or leucopenia. The lowering of the count may be because of the disruption in the regular functioning of the body or other pathological reasons.
Types of Leukopenia
The types of Leukopenia can be classified into different types based on the type of WBC your blood is low in. The major types of the leukocytes include Basophils, Lymphocytes, Monocytes, Eosinophils, and Neutrophils. While the count of other types of lymphocytes is not clearly connected to Leukopenia, Neutrophils, and lymphocytes are the types that are considered while testing your body against Leukopenia. The reason behind the three former types of WBCs not being counted for the purpose is that they are produced in considerably low quantities. Hence, the difference in the count of these doesn’t affect the body as much as the difference in the count of the rest two does.
This is the type of Leukopenia caused due to the deficiency of neutrophils. If the count of this type of leukocyte is 1700, the body is considered more vulnerable to neutropenia attack. However, if the count reaches 500, the case is considered as severe. It leads to a condition where your body can easily get infected or attacked by diseases.
As soon as the count of lymphocyte gets lower than 2000 per microliter of blood in children under six, lymphopenia is caused while when in adults, the countless than 1500 per microliter causes the condition. The lowering of the count is normally caused due to HIV, rubella, acute bacterial infection, etc.
You hardly go for a diagnosis of any disease until you see abnormal signs relating to the same in your body. Here are the signs and symptoms that you may go through or observe in cases of Leukopenia.
- If anyone suddenly starts exhibiting anemic tendency, where the body suffers from iron deficiency due to a decreased count of RBCs
- Bacterial infection in the liver, also known as liver abscesses
- Oral ulcers and infections
- Menorrhagia i.e. heavy and prolonged menstruation
- Metrorrhagia i.e. infective bleeding from the uterus
- Craving for hot drinks
- High fever almost 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Decrease in the platelet count due to the damage in the bone marrow. This condition is referred to as Thrombocytopenia.
- Stomatitis when inflammation of mucus lining of cheeks, gums, lips, tongue, etc.
- Inflammation of lungs because of bacteria or virus, which is also termed as Pneumonia
- A headache, fatigue, irritability, etc., which are collectively referred to as neurasthenia.
Bone Marrow Status
The condition of the bone marrow is a primary cause of Leukopenia. These include – Bone Marrow Suppression and Bone Marrow Diseases. The former is the condition of a human body when it is exposed to chemicals and toxins. This leads to a significant decrease in the production of all the cells in the bone marrow. This bone marrow suppression further leads to Leukopenia and Anemia. On the other hand, the bone marrow is unable to produce enough number of WBCs in some cases. It, however, starts producing only a selected one type if WBC in the body that leads to the shortage in the count of the other leukocyte types. The reason behind such malfunctioning of the bone marrow can either be the deficiency of vitamin B12 or the replacement of the bone marrow by some fibrous tissues. This is what makes bone marrow diseases one of the primary causes of Leukopenia. Bone marrow cancers are also the cause of Leukopenia.
It is not that only bone marrow cancers lead to Leukopenia. Other cancer types also impose the same level of harmful effects on a human body. Cancer and cancer treatments, therefore, are considered the vital causes of Leukopenia. Whether it is chemotherapy or radiation therapy or bone marrow transplant, your human body is likely to develop Leukopenia because of these reasons.
This is the cause of Leukopenia when a human body is unable to recognize its cells and it begins attacking them. In such a scenario, the body considers WBCs as foreign entries and hence attacks them. This condition is termed as Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).
This problem persists in your body since birth. The condition where the body does not support or lets bone marrow work properly, thereby restricting the production of blood cells falls under this type of cause of leukopenia. Such conditions include Kostmann syndrome, or Severe Congenital Neutropenia, and Myelokathexis.
If a person suffers from some severe infections, he/she is likely to experience a sudden decrease in the leukocyte count in the body. IT may include HIV or Tuberculosis. The condition where severe bacterial and viral infections lead to the decrease in WBC count is known as Sepsis.
The duty of the production and removal of blood cells is given to a specific organ called spleen. When this spleen gets enlarged, it begins destroying the blood cells. This is what leads to Leukopenia. The enlargement of the spleen is called hypersplenism.
When you take a meal, it should be a balanced one containing all required minerals in proper proportions. Leukopenia is caused when your body lacks Vitamin B-12, folate, copper, and zinc.
Besides the cancer treatments, as discussed above, there are other medications as well that cause Leukopenia in a human body. Drugs like Clozapine, which remove all granulocytes from your blook to antidepressant Bupropion HCl, which is used by smoking addicts – are the vital cause of the decrease of WBC count in a human body. Other drugs that may lead to leukopenia include valproic acid, metronidazole, cyclosporine, penicillin, TNF inhibitors, Avonex, Betaseron, and many more.
Thyroid disorders, typhoid, influenza, dengue, Rickettsial infections, arthritis, parasitic infestations, etc. are some other reasons that cause leukopenia in a person.
What is Pseudoleukopenia?
As soon as the white blood cells in our body find any foreign element entering inside, they all accumulate in that particular area to inspect the site of infection. As a result, the presence of leukocytes in blood samples during that phase seems to be less than what is required. This is the condition of pseudoleukopenia where the false representation of WBC is done.
Leukopenia can be diagnosed using various techniques. Some of the common tests conducted against the disease are as follows:
The blood sample is taken to figure out if the count of leukocytes is sufficient. In the process, each type of WBC is counted for the quantitative test.
This is all about examining the ganglions of the spleen. This organ is responsible for storing the WBCs. If any abnormality is found, it may be because of the disease.
Biopsy of lymph nodes
This is the process where a part of lymph node tissue is taken for examination and observed using a microscope.
Biopsy of bone marrow
It is very important to analyze the bone marrow properly. Here the bone marrow samples are removed and tested with a microscope.
It is a technology in which a particle in a fluid is analyzed as it passes through one or more lasers. This process helps to identify the physical and chemical properties of those particles taken for the test.
What Are the Treatments?
Of course, treatment mostly means relevant drugs that control a particular disease. When it comes to Leukopenia, the medications are given to enhance the production of blood cells. These medicines may also be for removing the causes that lead to the disease. For example, antifungals to treat fungal infections or antibiotics to treat other severe infections.
Termination of Treatments
As stated above, one of the causes of Leukopenia is the treatment of cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. It is always recommended to stop those treatments. These may lead to the increase in the leukocytes count.
It is advised to Leukopenia patients to opt for low bacteria diet. Any food item that is likely to be infected should be avoided. In addition, foods cooked using processes that enable easy contamination should also be avoided. It is recommended to have fruits and vegetable to stimulate the vitamin and mineral content in your body.
Using granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is important. Other growth stimulators obtained from bone marrow are also helpful. These are best when leukopenia is caused by chemotherapy or due to some genetic issue. These stimulators are proteins that help in the enhancement of the production of white blood cells.
It is advised to have a chilling lifestyle. Rest well, eat well, and sleep well to be fit. Be careful about your skin and body. Avoid even the tiniest of the cuts. Live a hygienic life. Keep off from germs.
Other than the above-mentioned treatments, there are certain steroids and therapies that help in controlling Leukopenia.
The complications of Leukopenia are many. Some of them are as follows:
- You may need to delay your cancer treatment to make sure you are not infected.
- You may face life-threatening infections while suffering from the disease. Septicemia is once such severe body-wide infection.
- Death can be the worst complication.
- Ulcer in the mouth or other gum infections
- Your body’s ability to fight infections reduce to a great extent.
- You are likely to get infected easily.
There are a few minute preventive measures that you can take to keep yourself away from catching infections.
General Preventive Measures
- Wash your hands with soap and water at frequent intervals
- Try wearing mask and gloves wherever necessary
- Use body lotion throughout your body. A dry skin is likely to catch infections.
- Avoid crowded places
- Avoid having injuries, even the tiniest ones
- Have a balanced diet.
Dietary Preventive Measures
- Start taking in Zinc-rich food. It will boost your immune system. Ex – oysters, spinach, wheat germ, and beef, etc.
- Diet rich in folic acid is good to get rid of Leukopenia. Eg – beans, citrus food, and spinach, etc.
- Have more and more dairy products.
- Green tea boosts your immune system.
- Garlic has a good amount of zinc in it.
- Consume more of fruits and vegetables.
- Take in food that stimulates multivitamins content in your body. Ex – Echinacea and Astragalus.
- Drink as much water as you can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should I see is I am suffering from Leukopenia?
Is my immune system affected if I have Leukopenia?
Of course, Yes. This is because your body’s ability to fight diseases decreases to a great extent.
Who are at higher risk of the disease?
Anyone exposed to the causes of Leukopenia is the risk.
Besides taking the blood sample, is there any other sample that could be taken for the diagnosis?
Yes. The samples from urine, throat swabs and sputum can also be used for the tests. However, the choice of the test particle is done based on the site of infection.
Does Yoga help in treating Leukopenia?
Yes. Yoga does help. It helps in the improvement of blood circulation and production of WBC. The cobra pose and Bhujangaasan are the forms that help in activating the Thymus gland behind the breastbone.
Am I prone to catch fungal infections while suffering from Leukopenia?
Yes. This is because the WBC, which helps fight infections and diseases in your body, reduce in number when you are suffering from the disease.