A low white blood cell count usually is caused by: Viral infections that temporarily disrupt the work of bone marrow. Certain disorders present at birth (congenital) that involve diminished bone marrow function. Autoimmune disorders that destroy white blood cells or bone marrow cells.
What stimulates the production of white blood cells?
Different growth factors stimulate the blood stem cells in the bone marrow to produce different types of blood cells. For example, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) stimulates the production of white cells called neutrophils while erythropoeitin (EPO) stimulates the production of red cells.
The most serious complications of low blood cell counts include:
- Infection. With a low white blood cell count and, in particular, a low level of neutrophils (neutropenia), a type of white blood cell that fights infection, you're at higher risk of developing an infection.
Causes of neutropenia. These factors related to cancer and cancer treatment can cause a low level of neutrophils: Some types of chemotherapy. Cancers that affect the bone marrow directly, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
The following conditions may cause leukopenia: Blood cell and bone marrow conditions: These can lead to leukopenia. Examples include aplastic anemia, overactive spleen, and myelodysplastic syndromes. Cancer: Leukemia and other cancers may damage the bone marrow and lead to leukopenia.
A high white blood cell count usually indicates: An increased production of white blood cells to fight an infection. A reaction to a drug that increases white blood cell production. A disease of bone marrow, causing abnormally high production of white blood cells.
Underlying causes for a low white blood cell count can range from benign disorders, such as vitamin deficiencies, to more serious blood diseases, such as leukemia or lymphoma. A truly low white blood cell count also puts you at higher risk for infections — typically bacterial infections.
A person with anemia may experience symptoms and signs such as:
- Shortness of breath.
- Decreased energy.
Causes. Cancer chemotherapy is probably the most common cause of neutropenia. People with chemotherapy-related neutropenia are prone to infections while they wait for their cell counts to recover. Neutrophils are manufactured in bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside some of your larger bones.
When your white blood cell count is low you may NOT have the usual signs and symptoms when developing an infection such as:
- Pus formation (at the site of an injury or incision)
- Nasal drainage (from a sinus or respiratory infection)
Intrinsic bone marrow diseases that may cause neutropenia include the following: Aplastic anemia. Hematologic malignancy (eg, leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplasia, myeloma) Ionizing radiation.
A low white blood cell count (leukopenia) is a decrease in disease-fighting cells (leukocytes) in your blood. Leukopenia is almost always related to a decrease in a certain type of white blood cell (neutrophil). The definition of low white blood cell count varies from one medical practice to another.
Basic Guidelines for a Neutropenic Diet. Avoid all uncooked vegetables and most uncooked fruits. Cooked vegetables and canned fruits and juices are safe to eat. Avoid raw or rare meat and fish and uncooked or undercooked eggs.
The normal range for the white blood cell count varies between laboratories but is usually between 4,300 and 10,800 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. This can also be referred to as the leukocyte count and can be expressed in international units as 4.3 - 10.8 x 109 cells per liter.
Immune thrombocytopenia. This type is caused by autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys platelets. If the exact cause of this condition isn't known, it's called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.
The normal number of WBCs in the blood is 4,500 to 11,000 WBC per microliter (4.5 to 11.0 × 109/L). Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different labs. Some labs use different measurements or may test different specimens. Talk to your provider about your test results.
The samples may show cancer cells, proteins or other substances made by the cancer. Blood tests can also give your doctor an idea of how well your organs are functioning and if they've been affected by cancer. Examples of blood tests used to diagnose cancer include: Complete blood count (CBC).
When you have a low blood count, this means your bone marrow is not making enough of one type of blood cells. Doctors call a low blood count cytopenia . The symptoms of bone marrow failure diseases like aplastic anemia , MDS and PNH are caused by low blood counts.
Since white blood cells fight off infection, people tend to think that elevated levels are actually beneficial. This is not necessarily the case! A high white blood cell count isn't a specific disease, but it can indicate another problem, such as infection, stress, inflammation, trauma, allergy, or certain diseases.
Lymphocytopenia is an abnormally low number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the blood. Many disorders can decrease the number of lymphocytes in the blood, but viral infections (including AIDS) and undernutrition are the most common.
Red blood cells, most white blood cells, and platelets are produced in the bone marrow, the soft fatty tissue inside bone cavities. Two types of white blood cells, T and B cells (lymphocytes), are also produced in the lymph nodes and spleen, and T cells are produced and mature in the thymus gland.