A decrease in leukocytes circulating in the blood or leukopenia symptoms can be due to mild problems, but, also more complicated health issues like cancer. The bone marrow produces approximately 100 billion white blood cells daily, also known as leukocytes. To detect their levels, doctors perform a blood test that measures the level of leukocytes per microliter in the blood.
The normal value is between 4,000 and 11,000 leukocytes per microliter of blood. That the figure is less than 4000 can suggest certain problems, some of them serious. The leukocytes are part of the immune system. They float in the blood defending us from viruses and bacteria that try to invade our organism.
Types of White Blood Cells
There are several types of white blood cells. They are divided into two groups depending on whether or not they have lobed nuclei.
- Neutrophils. They protect the organism from and infections caused by bacteria and fungi. They represent more than 45% of the leukocytes found in the bloodstream.
- Lymphocytes. They are 20% of the white blood cells, and their decrease makes the risk of infections significantly increase.
- Eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils. They represent the smallest leukocyte population, however, their absence can also pose certain problems related to infections.
White Blood Cells Related Diseases
1.Bone Marrow Disease
Some chemical treatments such as exposure to toxic substances, radiotherapy or chemotherapy can affect the hematopoietic cells present in the bone marrow. They are responsible for producing all cell types of the blood.
In this sense, an atrophied bone marrow implies a decrease in the number of white blood cells that the body can produce.
2.Bone marrow disorders
When the bone marrow cannot produce the necessary amount of white blood cells or on the contrary, it produces more but dysfunctional, it can induce leukocyte deficiency.
This usually occurs in patients with leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, myelofibrosis, myeloproliferative syndrome or patients with vitamin B12 or B9 deficiency.
If some type of cancer manages to migrate until it reaches the bone marrow it can trigger leukopenia, that is, a decrease in the production of functional leukocytes.
It is usually common in the presence of lymphomas, a certain type of cancer.
4.Viral or bacterial infections
Diseases caused by viruses or bacteria, such as Ebola or the disease caused by the Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), can compromise the function of the bone marrow, making it easier for the person to develop leukopenia.
This often occurs in cases of septicemia.
They occur when the immune system confuses the cells with foreign elements. In this case, the patient’s immune system attacks its own organism.
If the hematopoietic cells are affected, blood problems can be generated that imply a decrease in the number of white blood cells circulating in the bloodstream.
Hyperactivity of the spleen causes Hypersplenism. The spleen is an organ that takes place on the upper left side of the abdomen. It is responsible for removing old red and white blood cells from the bloodstream. Meaning, it acts as a filter that allows cell renewal in this tissue.
The spleen of a patient with hypersplenism removes red and white blood cells from the bloodstream before they have to be removed, which can lead to serious problems. Hypersplenism is caused by cirrhosis, lymphoma, malaria or tuberculosis.
Consuming certain medications can cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells circulating in the bloodstream. Some examples of immunosuppressant medications are antiepileptic drugs, such as clozapine, sodium valproate or lamotrigine.
In addition to these are the medications used to treat tobacco addiction, depression or multiple sclerosis.
Pathologies associated with problems in the thyroid gland, parasitic infections, rheumatoid arthritis, deficiency of copper and zinc, HIV or dengue are some of the many diseases that can cause leukopenia.
Detecting leukopenia is difficult without a blood test because it usually does not cause any symptoms. However, some people who suffer from this disease have weakness, fatigue, dizziness or loss of appetite.
If you are one of those people who “gets sick every second” we strongly recommend that you go to the doctor and check the health of your immune system.