Neutropenia is a health condition marked by a low neutrophil count in circulating blood. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and one of the primary natural defenses against bacteria, fungi and other foreign invaders. So, whenever its concentration is low your infection risk significantly increases.
Since, your body is under a constant risk of infection, it’s vital to your health for you to have an ample and continuous supply of neutrophils, which are produced by your bone marrow. And how they protect you is by engulfing potential infection causes, zap them with their enzymes and then digest it.
Fibrile neutropenia means your condition of neutropenia is accompanied by fever. A fever is often the only sign of infection development neutropenia because typical symptoms associated with an inflammatory response are less pronounced due to neutropenia.
Some common infections due to low neutrophil count include:
- sore throat
- otitis media
- mouth ulcers
- gum infection
- periodontal disease
- liver, skin abscesses
Infection risk varies based on the extent your neutrophil count is below normal.
The basic causes of neutropenia are neutrophil production decrease, destruction and redistributing elsewhere in your body that’s out of blood circulation. Insufficient production is the most common cause of neutropenia.
Neutropenia can be caused by numerous health conditions, congenital disorders, medications, treatments, toxin exposure and vitamin deficiencies. Some conditions that can increase your infection risk due to their lowering affect on the neutrophil count are:
- parasitic infections ~ malaria
- bacterial infections ~ tuberculosis
- viral infections ~ HIV, Epstein Barr virus, influenza
- Felty’s syndrome ~ complication of rheumatoid arthritis
- autoimmune disorders ~ systemic lupus erythematosus
- cancer ~ leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma, metastatic breast & prostate
- blood cancers, blood diseases ~ leukemias, myelodysplastic syndrome, aplastic anemia, myelofibrosis
Congenital disorders that are associated with neutopenia include familial neutropenia, cyclic neutropenia and infantile agranulocytosis.
Drugs and treatments are common causes of neutropenia, like:
- radiation therapy
- bone marrow transplant
- high doses of corticosteroids
- certain types of antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antihistamines
Febrile neutropenia is a common concern if you are receiving cytotoxic (cell killing) chemotherapy.
Treatment of neutropenia or febrile neutropenia depends on the cause for your low neutrophil count and might involve:
- granulocyte transfusions
- antibiotics for fibrile neutropenia
- supplements for nutritional deficiencies
- stop taking drugs that cause neutropenia
- corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin
- take blood growth factor if on chemotherapy for cancer
- spleen removal with Felty’s syndrome who have repeated infections
Mild non febrile neutropenia may not require treatment because it can resolve on its own.
Neutropenia is sometimes referred to as agranulocytosis or granulocytopenia, but their precise definitions do differ.