Leukocytes, or white blood cells, play a very important role in the human body. They are the fundamental element in the blood which help fight infection. The normal count of white blood cells in the body range from 4,000 to 11,000 for every microliter of blood. Anything below this range is already considered a condition called leukopenia. In short, the body is unable to normally fight off infection because of the low white blood cell count.
Causes of Low White Blood Cell Count
Problems With the Bone Marrow
There are so many different reasons for having a low white blood cell count. Bone marrow problems are among the most common. Exposure to some chemicals can negatively affect the ability of the bone marrow to produce white blood cells. This is true for pesticides and benzene. Developing some kinds of cancer may also cause the white blood cell count to fall. Radiation, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments also affect the production of white blood cells.
The white blood cells of people suffering from autoimmune disorders are low. This is because conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus program the human body to destroy and attack the white blood cells.
The bone marrow is affected whenever the body is infected by viruses. These conditions usually cause white blood cells to drop for some time. The body uses white blood cells faster when suffering from blood infections and other severe infections. HIV destroys a particular type of WBCs.
Patients who are taking antibiotics and some drugs may compromise their white blood cells. These medications can damage their white blood cells during therapy.
Poor nutrition habits can impact the body’s ability to produce white blood cells. Low levels of B12, folic acid and other vitamins may translate into a low white blood cell count. Alcoholism can also cause the white blood cell count to go down together with other nutrients in the body.
White blood cells are also produced in the spleen. The count may also drop if this important body part is affected by problems like blood clots and infections.
Other Known Causes of Low White Blood Cell Count
Aside from the causes mentioned above, there are other less common causes of having a low white blood cell count. Some congenital disorders impact the function of the bone marrow. In cases like these, the white blood cell count is likely to be affected as well. The inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis is another medical condition known to affect the white blood cells.
Additional causes include myelokathexis, myelodysplastic syndromes and leukemia. Kostmann’s syndrome, hypersplenism and aplastic anemia are also bad for your white blood cell counts.
Follow-up Tests for Low White Blood Cell Count
If the initial test to determine the cause of having a low white blood cell count is not clear, the doctor may ask for another test. A complete blood count or CBC may also be required together with the follow-up test. The succeeding blood tests may focus on symptoms of allergies, inflammation or viral infections.
Cancer and Low White Blood Cell Count
A cancer patient may have low white blood cell count because of the cancer itself or due to the cancer treatment. In the case of bone marrow cancer, the low white blood cell count is caused by the fewer production of neutrophils.
Ways to Prevent Infections
One of the benefits of knowing right away if you are suffering from a low white blood cell count is that you can plan ahead to avoid infections.
Exercise extreme caution especially when there are pets inside your home. Acquiring infections from your beloved animals is possible given the weakened state of the immune system.
People with low white blood cell count should closely watch what they eat and drink. It is best to stick with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables to boost your immune system.
Handwashing is one of the surest ways to prevent infection. Do this with regularly with soap and water to remove bacteria and viruses from your hands.
Avoid individuals who are showing signs of infection. People with low white blood cell count can acquire infections easily because of their weakened state.
When to Seek Medical Help
Once diagnosed with low white blood cell count, it is important that you watch out closely for these symptoms. Call your doctor right away and plan the best course of action.
A burning sensation while urinating is never a good sign. It may indicate some kind of infection that should be given immediate treatment.
Troubled breathing is another bad sign which may require immediate action. Try to monitor how your breathing goes while you are at rest. If things look fine, try breathing while doing simple tasks and then observe. Consult your doctor whenever you feel any kind of breathing difficulty.
If you have a cough and you notice that it is getting worse over time, it is best to visit your doctor. This way, you can determine if you are suffering from serious respiratory conditions like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
A headache that does not go away is something to worry about. The same thing also applies to an extremely bad headache. It is also not a good sign if you are not able to eat and drink. Improper nutrition may further weaken your body and immune system.
Other symptoms that require a doctor’s immediate attention include severe stomach pain, blisters or skin rashes and extreme weakness. Bloody diarrhea, vomiting, severe nausea, sweats, chills a, d fevers all point to some kind of infection that is happening within your body.
Work with your doctor closely and ask for ways on how you can best avoid contagious conditions. Never hesitate to go to the hospital if you see any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. The regular and thorough washing of hands is highly recommended for everyone. Wearing a face mask and other protective gears can also help you prevent contamination with cold and other infectious diseases.