White blood cells are essential elements of the immune system. They are also known as leukocytes. The white blood cells are instrumental in the manufacture of antibodies, which are then utilized by the body’s immune system to protect it against a number of illnesses and infections. The white blood cells also play an important part in fighting off the defects that can be found in eth lymphatic system, the bone marrow and the bloodstream. Thus white blood cells are important to the efficient functioning of the body and a low white blood cell count can be very harmful.
Normal White Blood Cell Count
Around 100 billion white blood cells are produced by the bone marrow on a daily basis. A healthy body will generally have a white blood cell count of somewhere between 4,000 to 11,500 cells per micro-liter of blood. Children usually have a higher white blood cells count than adults. The white blood cells count in newborn infants varies from 9,000 to 30,000 cells per micro-liter of blood.
The white blood cells are categorized into 5 main types, i.e., neutrophils, basophils, monocytes, eosinophils and lymphocytes which are composed of B cells and T cells. All these cells majorly protect the body against illnesses. The white cell count can drop to lower levels due to certain diseases. When the white blood cell count goes down below 3000 per micro-liter of blood, then it can lead to a condition is referred to as leucopenia, i.e. low white blood cell count. A lab test of the blood can be used to check the white blood cell count.
Symptoms of low white cell count
Depending on the severity of the disorder, low white blood cell count can result in symptoms that vary from mild to extreme. As the immune system is quite strong in mild cases of low white blood cell count, the symptoms are not easily noticeable. However, severe cases of low white blood cell count can be easily observed via the following symptoms:
- Lightheadedness and increased instances of fainting spells
- The weakened immune system makes the body susceptible to multiple and frequent infections
- Children with low white cell count may experience symptoms such as persistent headaches, fever, anemia, etc.
- Low white blood cell count can also result in the development of a disorder referred to as hematoma, which causes the accumulation of blood beneath the skin’s surface.
- Women with low white blood cell count may endure menorrhagia or longer menstrual cycles.
- Distorted emotional balance, hot flashes, fatigue, and irritability, etc., are some of the other signs of low white blood cell count.
Causes of low white blood cell count
A low white blood cell count can be due to a number of reasons. It may be caused due to infection by bacteria or viruses, congenital conditions of the bone marrow and the immune system, cancer, and also due to engaging in some types of therapies. A few types of medications such immunosuppressant drugs, diuretics, anti-psychotics and clozapine can also result in the body’s white blood cell count going down. Children can be affected by low white blood cell count due to a number of severe condition, which can be life threatening and even fatal in certain instances. A low white blood cell count can affect the body in a number of ways leading to an impaired immune system, delayed healing of cuts and wounds, etc.
Some of the major causes of low white blood cell count are discussed below:
- The occurrence of pathogens in the body can result in extreme allergic reactions, lowering the white blood cell count.
- The bone marrow can be damaged by the presence of autoimmune disorders, which can eventually limit the production of white blood cells
- Hyperthyroidism, which is a disorder of the thyroid gland which leads to increased production of the thyroid hormone
- Diminished quantities of minerals and vitamins present in the body
- Any abnormalities of the spleen or liver can lead to the development of a condition known as hypersplenism, eventually leading to the destruction of leukocytes and resulting in low white blood cell count.
- The function of the bone marrow can also be adversely affected by the presence of congenital conditions such as Myelokathexis, Kostmann’s syndrome, Myelodysplastic syndromes, and Myelofibrosis, etc.
- A low white blood cell count can be even be caused due to infection by HIV/AIDS
- The presence of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Other causes of low white cell count in the body include diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, leukemia, etc., and therapies such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, etc., that can result in destruction of the body’s tissues, making it prone to infection.
Treatment of low white blood cell count
A low white blood cell count is identified by a undergoing a complete blood cell count. A low white blood cell count is a dangerous condition and requires prompt medical attention.
Once the exact cause of the low white blood count is determined after diagnosis by a doctor, then the appropriate treatment is advised by the doctor to treat the underlying condition to increase the white blood cell count in the body.
Certain drugs such as cytokines can be prescribed to trigger the manufacture of white blood cells. A balanced diet is also recommended. Infectious diseases may be treated with antibodies.