Low White Blood Cell Count

Low White Blood Cell Count: Overview

White blood cells play an important role in the immunity/immune system of an individual.  The white blood cell count is performed routinely as part of a complete blood count.  An unusually high white blood cell count can indicate an infection, hypersplenism, bone marrow depression (drugs, radiation or heavy metal poisoning) or primary bone marrow disorders such as leukemia.  A low white blood cell count can be the result of infection, make an individual more susceptible to outside infections or allow multiplication of organisms within the body which would normally kept in check by a healthy immune system.

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There are many different types and forms of white cells.  Since deficiencies can affect one or more types or forms, a doctor's help and additional testing is usually required to understand the nature or cause of the deficiency.

Causes and Development

Neutropenia can occur in acute bacterial infections, viral infections, rickettsia disease, some parasite injections, aplastic and pernicious anemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, some hormone imbalances and anaphylactic shock.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Low White Blood Cell Count:

Lab Values - Cells

Counter-indicators

Risk factors for Low White Blood Cell Count:

Autoimmune

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis)

Active lupus and an infection may share many symptoms.  Further, infection can induce a lupus flare or be difficult to distinguish from a lupus flare.  A low white blood cell count is suggestive of active lupus (although certain viruses can also give a low white count) while a high count suggests infection.

Circulation

Drug Side-Effect

Chemotherapy Side-Effects

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy destroy fast-growing cells such as white blood cells.  Patients receiving a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy are at greater risk of a low white count.

Immunity

Infections

Chronic / Hidden Infection

A hidden chronic or overwhelming infection – especially a viral infection – can result in a depressed white blood cell count.

Low White Blood Cell Count suggests the following may be present:

Autoimmune

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis)

Active lupus and an infection may share many symptoms.  Further, infection can induce a lupus flare or be difficult to distinguish from a lupus flare.  A low white blood cell count is suggestive of active lupus (although certain viruses can also give a low white count) while a high count suggests infection.

Drug Side-Effect

Chemotherapy Side-Effects

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy destroy fast-growing cells such as white blood cells.  Patients receiving a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy are at greater risk of a low white count.

Immunity

Recommendations for Low White Blood Cell Count:

Habits

Personal Hygiene Changes

When your white count is low, consider additional personal hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection.  Examples of these could include:

  • Washing your hands frequently, and reminding those who come in contact with you to do the same.
  • Keeping fingernails short and neatly trimmed, being careful not to trim cuticles or cut nails so short they bleed.
  • Avoiding persons with colds or infections.  Don't be embarrassed to wear a surgical face mask in crowded circumstances.
  • Avoiding fresh flowers, plants or fruits that can carry bacteria and fungi.
  • Inspecting for cuts and scratches which should be cleaned and have a new dressing applied at least once per day.
  • Cleaning your mouth several times each day by brushing and the regular use of an antiseptic mouthwash.
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