Leukopenia/Leukocytopenia/NeutropeniaLeukopenia is a decrease in the number of white blood cells found in blood. It decreases the ability of the body to fight infections and diseases.
White Blood Cells (WBCs) or leukocytes are cells of the Immune System, they are found in the blood and lymphatic system. They are produced and derived from a multi-potent cell in the bone marrow, known as ‘hematopoietic stem cell’. White blood cells protect the body against infections, diseases and foreign particles. Activation or presence of malignant leukocytes in Leukemia may change the physical properties of leukocytes.
There are five different types of Leukocytes –
- Neutrophils: They defend the body against bacterial or fungal infection.
- Eosinophils: These primarily deal with parasitic infections.
- Basophils: They respond to allergies by releasing a chemical called histamine, which causes inflammation.
- Monocytes: They share the function of neutrophils. They also present pieces of pathogens to T cells, which can recognize these pathogens and kill them.
- Lymphocyte: They make antibodies, co-ordinate the immune response, kill cells which are viral or cancer infected.
Symptoms: The most common indicator of leukopenia is neutropenia. It is a sub-type of leukopenia. In neotropenia, there is a reduction in the number of neutrophils (the most abundant white blood cells). The neutrophil count is also the most common indicator of an infection risk. If leukopenia is mild, the person will hardly exhibit any symptom, only in severe cases the symptoms start showing up.
- Anemia: It is decrease in red blood cells or decrease in hemoglobin count.
- Menorrhaggia: It is abnormally heavy and prolonged menstrual period.
- Metrorrhaggia: It is bleeding from the uterus, but not due to menstruation. It is indicative of some infection.
- Neurasthenia: It is a condition characterized by fatigue, headache and disturbed emotional balance.
- Thrombocytopenia: It is a blood disease, in which there are abnormally less number of platelets in the blood.
- Stomatitis: It is an inflammation of the mucous lining of the structures in the mouth, like the cheeks, gums, tongue, lips, etc
- Pneumonia: It causes inflammation in the lungs due to congestion by virus or bacteria.
- Liver abscesses: It is a kind of bacterial infection in the liver. It is relatively rare but fatal.
- Fatigue, headache and fever are frequent symptoms. One also experiences hot flashes and irritability.
- The person becomes susceptible to various infections and oral ulcers.
- The patient develops strong desire to drink hot drinks.
The primary cause of this disease is extensive neutrophil use or reduction in the number of neutrophils. The other causes are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, leukemia, myelofibrosis, aplastic anemia, influenza, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some types of cancer, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue. Sometimes, luekopenia is also caused due to Rickettsial infections, enlargement of the spleen, folate deficiencies, psittacosis and sepsis. Other causes are deficiency in certain minerals, such as copper and zinc.