Neutropenia is the reduction in neutrophil count, which are important cells in the blood for the immune system. Neutrophils are basic cells consisting about 50-70% of white blood cells and fighting against bacteria. For this reason, neutropenia patients are more susceptible against potentially dangerous bacterial infections.
Neutropenia may have various different causes that can be classified as conditions preventing neutrophil production in the bone marrow, destruction of neutrophils in some part of the body and cases associated with the use of certain drugs. The cause of neutropenia must be established for successful treatment.
Neutropenia is generally recognized when the patient has a serious infection. Although neutrophils aid in the formation of inflammation in the area of an infection, inflammation is not observed in neutropenia patients.
Common signs of neutropenia are fever, frequent infections, mouth ulcers, diarrhea, burning sensation while urinating, rash, swelling and pain around any wounds, sore throat.
Causes of neutropenia may essentially be categorized as follows:
- Decreased neutrophil production in the bone marrow: Causes such as aplastic anemia, arsenic poisoning, some types of cancer and in particular leukemia, radiation, vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency are included in this group.
- Increased neutrophil destruction: Autoimmune neutropenia and chemotherapy in cancer patients are among causes listed in this group.
- Cases of neutropenia due to certain drugs: Some drugs affecting the nervous system, anti-inflammatories, anti-cancer drugs and some antibiotics may cause neutropenia.
Although complete blood cell count may reveal low neutrophil values, additional tests are generally required. If the condition cannot be diagnosed and the patient has taken a turn for the worse, a bone marrow biopsy must be performed. In undiagnosed cases, additional tests such as autoantibody tests, antineutrophil antibody tests may be required to be conducted due to the probability of some autoimmune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematous).
No definite treatment is currently available for neutropenia. However, granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (such as filgrastim) produced by using biotechnological methods have recently been used in chemotherapy patients and in congenital neutropenia. Antibiotic therapy may also be helpful in some neutropenia patients as protection against infections.