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Chronic Low White Blood Cell Count

What Medications Cause Low White Blood Cells

Neutropenia

Some medications can cause low white blood cells as a side effect.

Chemotherapy treatments are the medications most commonly associated with low white blood cells. These medications target rapidly dividing cancer cells, as well as rapidly dividing healthy cells. Radiation therapy, also used as a cancer treatment, can have the same effect.

Because white blood cells rapidly divide as the body frequently replaces them, chemotherapy treatments can prevent their healthy production.

Other medications known to cause low white blood cells include antibiotics, antihypertensives, antipsychotics, immunosuppressants, and anti-epilepsy drugs. These medications do not cause a low white blood cell count in everyone, and there may be a genetic predisposition to this side effect.

What To Do If You Develop An Infection

If you develop an infection, your doctor will order medications to treat the infection. Depending on the cause and severity of the infection, the medications may be given either by mouth or through a vein using an intravenous catheter. If you require IV medications, accommodations can be made for you to receive them in our office or possibly at home. Some patients require admission to the hospital in order to effectively treat their infection.

If necessary, your oncologist may decide to delay further treatments until your white blood cell count has returned to normal levels and/or you are free of infection.

Diagnosis Of Low White Blood Cell Count In Dogs

White blood cell counts in dogs are measured using a leukogram. In most cases, this will be part of a complete blood cell count that also measures red blood cells and platelets. Some abnormal leukogram results include leukopenia and neutropenia.

An Inflammatory Response or ‘left shift’ means there are high numbers of immature neutrophils caused by increased bone marrow production. If this corresponds with neutropenia, it is called a degenerative left shift. It suggests either a very recent infection, or a severe systemic disease that is destroying neutrophils faster than bone marrow generation. Your dogs other symptoms and the degree of neutropenia may further help to indicate the cause. Very low neutrophil numbers are usually associated with canine parvovirus, while other infections will only have mildly depleted levels. Few or mild symptoms of infection could indicate an autoimmune disorder that is destroying neutrophils in the blood.

Neutropenia can occur cyclically, as with the genetic disease of gray collies. This diagnosis will depend on your dogs breed and age, since most collies with this condition do not survive past 2 years of age. Neutrophil numbers drop in approximately 12 day cycles.

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Causes Of A Low White Blood Cell Count

Common causes of a low white blood cell count are:

  • Medications and cancer treatments, such as some antibiotics, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow cancers and bone marrow disorders, including aplastic anemia and multiple myeloma
  • Infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus and severe infections

White blood cells are made in the bone marrow and circulate throughout the body. Diseases, toxins, medications, or medical treatments that harm the bone marrow can prevent enough white blood cells from being produced. Some medical conditions can also cause the destruction of white blood cells.

Usually, having low white blood cells is a sign of chronic disease. But sometimes medications or infections can temporarily cause this problem due to the destruction of white blood cells. This should resolve once the infection clears up or the medication is discontinued.

Benign ethnic neutropenia is a cause of inherited chronic neutropenia . It is seen mostly in people of African, Middle Eastern, and West Indian descent worldwide. It does not increase a person’s risk of infection.

Medicines The Following Medicines May Help Increase Wbc Counts They Can Also Help Lower The Risk Of Or Treat Infection

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Colony-stimulating factors

Colony-stimulating factors are special medicines called growth factors. They stimulate, or help, the bone marrow to make white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Different types of growth factors stimulate the bone marrow to make different types of blood cells. Granulocyte colony-stimulating factors stimulate the bone marrow to make granulocytes. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factors stimulate the bone marrow to make granulocytes and macrophages. Granulocytes and macrophages are types of WBCs.

With some chemotherapy drugs, G-CSFs or GM-CSFs may be given to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more WBCs. Filgrastim and pegfilgrastim are examples of G-CSFs. Sargramostim is a GM-CSF that may be used to help reduce the chance of developing infection and keep chemotherapy on schedule.

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White Blood Cell Count: What You Need To Know

White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, help protect the body against infections, bacteria, viruses and diseases. These essential part of the immune system are produced in the bone marrow and are present in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells come in different types, and the blood normally contains a certain percentage for each type. This is what doctors check when they request tests that measure a persons WBC count.

When Should I See A Doctor About A Possible Low White Blood Cell Count

Ask your doctor if he or she is concerned about your white blood cell count and if you will need additional tests. If your white blood cell count is low, and you feel like you have an infection, contact your healthcare provider right away.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/12/2018.

References

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How To Avoid Infections

A person with leukemia is susceptible to foreign pathogens and less equipped to fight off and heal from infections. This is especially true for a person undergoing chemotherapy as part of their treatment. Having a low white blood cell count means that some infections may become life-threatening, so its important to take steps to help cut down your risk of getting sick when your immune system isnt in its strongest fighting form.

What Can I Do To Prevent Leukopenia

What Is Leukopenia and What Causes It?

You may not be able to avoid leukopenia. However, taking care of your overall health and avoiding infection are good ways to reduce your risk. Some suggestions include:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stay up-to-date on all vaccines, including shots for the flu and COVID-19.
  • Avoid people who are sick or crowds where you might come into close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid injuries like scrapes, tears or cuts , and care for wounds immediately if your skin is damaged.
  • Prevent the spread of germs by washing fruits and vegetables, keeping meats away from other foods, preparing meals in a clean kitchen and cooking foods to the proper temperature.
  • Dont share utensils, cups, food or drinks with others.
  • Dont share towels, razors or toothbrushes with others.
  • Wear gloves if youre gardening or working in the yard.
  • Avoid picking up pet waste or changing a newborns diaper.
  • Avoid lakes, ponds, rivers and hot tubs.
  • Be sure to take the medication your healthcare provider prescribed that will help prevent infections.

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What Can I Do To Avoid/prevent A Low White Blood Cell Count

To minimize the chances of certain diseases and a low white blood cell count:

  • Practice good hygiene. For instance, wash your hands after using the bathroom and before cooking.
  • Be careful around pets and other animals that might transmit infections.
  • Make sure foods are thoroughly cooked before eating them.
  • Stay away from people who have infections.
  • Practice safe sex avoid drugs and sharing needles.

Complications Can Cause Many Symptoms

Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Some medical conditions, like bone marrow disease, can cause low white blood cells. These cells are a vital part of the immune system, and having low white blood cells can cause medical problems, especially infections. Low white blood cells can also lead to problems with healing from wounds and make you more susceptible to cancer and other diseases.

This article will discuss the symptoms experienced with a low white blood cell count, what causes the symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and when to contact your healthcare provider.

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Other Conditions That May Cause Low Wbc Counts

Having a low or high WBC is not always an indication of leukemia. Five percent of people will experience a high or low WBC in their lifetime. In fact, several noncancerous conditions can lead to an abnormal WBC count. For example, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis , which can cause high WBCs, and excessive alcohol use can lead to a low WBC count. Certain racial and ethnic groups may naturally have a lower number of circulating WBCs.

When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider

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Leukopenia increases your risk of developing infections, so you should contact your healthcare provider if you have leukopenia and think you may have an infection.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Leukopenia happens when your white blood cell levels are lower than normal. There are many reasons why your white blood cell level may drop. For example, you may be receiving life-saving cancer treatment that lowers your white blood cell levels. You may have an autoimmune disorder like lupus. If you have leukopenia, youre at risk of infections. If you know you have leukopenia, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to fend off infections.

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Recovery Of Low White Blood Cell Count In Dogs

Leukopenia can be the sign of many serious conditions that require lifelong management. Blood cancers may respond to chemotherapy, but the prognosis is guarded. Many other potential causes could require long-term medication and your dog will need to be monitored carefully for side effects or toxicity. If infection is the primary cause, your dog may make a full recovery, as long as he survives the initial disease. The prognosis will depend on the diagnosis of a veterinarian.

Leukopenia can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection youll have from unexpected vet costs.

Abnormal Blood Counts Treatment

Blood is composed of red blood cells , white blood cells and blood platelets. These cells and cell fragments are suspended in blood plasma. Abnormal amounts of these components can lead to several symptoms and health problems. These abnormalities can also be caused by an underlying disease. Abnormal blood counts are common and are often very treatable. In rare cases, an abnormal blood count can indicate an immune disorder or a cancer.

Physicians in the Benign Hematology Program specialize in evaluating patients with abnormal blood counts to identify the cause of their condition and create a personalized treatment plan.

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The Best Way To Understand Your White Blood Cell Count

Utilizing a history of blood data is the best way to understand a low white blood cell count. A single low WBC measure is not enough information for diagnosis. Speak with your physician about the need for follow-up testing. For most people, a low white blood cell level does not indicate illness or disease, but rather that your immune system is functioning properly. To maintain a properly functioning immune system, take action on improving lifestyle factors related to your white blood cell count. To learn what actions you can take to impact your white blood cell count, upload your results and develop your action plan with InsideTracker.

Foods That Increase Wbc Counts

Is a low white blood cell count common in smoldering multiple myeloma?

If your white blood cell level is low, there are changes you can make to try to increase it. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatments, including diets, that may disrupt your WBC count. Very low WBCs are medical emergencies that require prompt treatment.

A healthy diet, rich in vegetables, and protein is a good way to maintain a healthy immune system.

A Mediterranean diet, which consists of whole grains fruits and vegetables beans, nuts, and seeds healthy fats moderate amounts of fish and poultry and limited amounts of red meat, has been shown to help boost white blood cell levels. Foods such as blueberries, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing certain immune disorders. These whole foods are a good source of antioxidants, which can help support the function of a healthy immune system.

As much as possible, look to get your nutrients and antioxidants from foods. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

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Low White Blood Cell Count

Complications can cause many symptoms

Some medical conditions, like bone marrow disease, can cause low white blood cells. These cells are a vital part of the immune system, and having low white blood cells can cause medical problems, especially infections. Low white blood cells can also lead to problems with healing from wounds and make you more susceptible to cancer and other diseases.

This article will discuss the symptoms experienced with a low white blood cell count, what causes the symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and when to contact your healthcare provider.

FatCamera / Getty Images

Low White Blood Cell Count Causes

Low white blood cell count is often caused by problems with the bone marrow where they are made. The bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside of bones which is responsible for creating most of the bodys blood cells.Certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, and treatments such as chemotherapy can damage the bone marrows ability to create white blood cells. Chemicals such as benzene and certain pesticides can also damage the bone marrow.Another common cause for a low white blood cell count is infection. An infection can affect the bone marrow and make it difficult for the body to produce white blood cells. Also, when the body is fighting a particularly severe infection, the rate of white cell production, even when stepped up in response, may not keep up with the rate at which white blood cells are being used up in combating the disease.Other causes of leukopenia include autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which cause the body to attack its own white blood cells. Certain medications can also destroy white blood cells. Vitamin deficiency, excessive alcohol consumption and generally poor diet can also lower a white blood cell count.

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Conditions That Affect The Bone Marrow

Anything that interferes with the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow may potentially lead to leukopenia, including:

  • Infiltration of the bone marrow: Infiltration of the bone marrow can disrupt the process of blood cell formation. Metastases to the bone marrow can similarly lead to leukopenia. Cancers that tend to spread to the bone marrow include breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, and stomach cancer.
  • Bone marrow disorders, including aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, multiple myeloma, myelofibrosis

What Are The Symptoms Of Low Blood Counts

Low White Blood Cell Count Pregnancy

The symptoms of bone marrow failure diseases like aplastic anemia, MDS and PNH are caused by low blood counts. The specific symptoms depend on which type of blood cell is affected. Read the section below to see the symptoms for each type of cell.

You may have many of these symptoms or just one or two of them. And you may get a new symptom at any point in the course of your illness.

A low red blood cell count is called anemia. If you have a low red blood cell count, you may:

  • Feel a little tired or very tired.
  • Feel less alert or have trouble concentrating.
  • Have a loss of appetite or lose weight.
  • Have paler-than-normal skin.

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What Are White Blood Cells

White blood cells are a type of immune cell. They are created in the bone marrow, the spongy part of your bones, and can be found in blood and in tissues that support the immune system, which are known as lymph tissues. There are several types of white blood cells, and each plays a role in fighting infection and disease in the body:

Your WBC count is measured with a blood test called a complete blood count . If your WBC count is higher than normal, this could indicate an infection or inflammation. A low WBC count signals a problem with your immune system. This is a common problem in people living with cancer or taking medications that suppress the immune system.

Typical reference ranges for a WBC count are:

  • Low: Less than 4,500 WBCs per microliter
  • Normal: 4,500 to 11,000 WBCs per microliter
  • High: More than 11,000 WBCs per microliter

Problems Neutropenia Might Cause

  • Increased risk for infection
  • In a person with a healthy immune system, the usual signs of infection may include fever, pus, pain, swelling, and redness. As the ANC gets lower, many of these signs may not show up when an infection starts. This is because these signs are caused by neutrophils fighting off germs, and you dont have enough neutrophils to produce the signs.
  • Your cancer care team may have to delay your treatment or reduce your dose to prevent further neutropenia

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