What is neutropenia?
Neutropenia is a blood disorder that is characterized by an abnormally low number of white blood cells (Neutrophils) present in human body. The role of white blood cells is to protect the body from infection.
People suffering with neutropenia tend to develop infections easily because their white blood cell count is too low to fight off germs, such as bacteria.
Most of these infections occur in the lungs, mouth, throat, sinuses, and skin. Some people get gum infections, ear infections, or infections of the urinary tract, colon, rectum, or reproductive tract.
What is the cause of neutropenia?
Neutropenia has many possible causes. Some people are born with neutropenia. It can also happen during or after a viral infection.
In some cases the cause of neutropenia may be the side effect of a drug or exposure to certain poisons.
Not having enough amount of vitamin B-12 or folate (folic acid) in your diet can also cause neutropenia. It may result from diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Having chemotherapy for cancer can also cause it.
How is neutropenia diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) to measure the amount of white blood cells and to see if other blood cells are normal or abnormal.
What are the symptoms of neutropenia?
You may not have any symptoms of neutropenia, or you may have symptoms of an infection, which may include:
- Sore throat
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Nasal congestion
- Unusual vaginal discharge or itching
- Burning during urination
- Shaking chills
- Redness, swelling, or warmth at the site of an injury
How is neutropenia treated?
Treatment for neutropenia depends on the cause and the severity. You may need to:
- Take antibiotics to prevent infections
- Make changes in your diet or take vitamin supplements
- Avoid chemicals or medicines that are known to cause neutropenia
New medicines called colony stimulating factors may also be used to stimulate the growth of neutrophils. These medicines help restore immune system function.