Leukopenia is a condition where there is an abnormal reduction of white blood cells or leukocytes in the body. The normal WBC count in the blood is around 5000-10000 per cubic millimeter, forming 1% of the total blood volume. During leukopenia, the WBC level count drops below 3500 per cubic millimeter.
WBCs are the well-known defense systems of the body. When the person is affected with leukopenia, they lose the ability to protect the body, making it susceptible to infectious attacks and or autoimmune diseases and aplastic anemia.
Types of WBC or Leukocytes:
Leukocytes are classified into 2 types based on the presence of granules.
Cells with granules are referred to as granulocytes. The granules present in the cells are membrane-bound enzymes. These enzymes act on the invading organism that has been engulfed by the cells. Granulocytes are further categorized into 3 different types based on their staining properties.
Agranulocytes, also called mononuclear leukocytes, is a type of WBC with no distinct granules. Agranulocytes contains other vital components that that help in killing the organism. Agranulocytes also has 3 different types of cells:
Around 45 to 75 percent of the total white blood cell count comprise of neutrophils. Neutropenia, , resulting from the lower count of neutrophils is one of the most common forms of leukopenia(1). Generally referred to as initial fighters of the immune system, neutrophils play a major role in fighting against microbial infections like bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections.
If left untreated, neutropenia can cause life-threatening infections, and in severe cases, it can also lead to death.
Causes of Leucopoenia
Leukopenia is caused due to various health issues or treatments: General causes of leukopenia:
1. Bone marrow disease
Patients suffering from bone marrow disease do not produce sufficient white blood cells. In some cases, they produce selectively excess of one type of WBC resulting in lack of other types of WBC.
Patients suffering from cancer also fall prey to leukopenia, where cancer can spread to the bone marrow. This is seen generally in lymphoma patients.
3. Autoimmune disorder
Autoimmune disorders can also cause leucopenia. In this condition, the body fails to recognize its own cells and attacks and kills its own cells. This condition is called lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Hypersplenism is caused due to the enlargement of the spleen and it destroys the blood cells leading to leukopenia along with anemia.
[ Read: Iron Rich Foods that can help to Combat Anemia ]
Viral or bacterial infections, dengue fever, or tuberculosis are some of the common infections that can cause leukopenia.
Deficiency of essential nutrient in the diet can cause malnutrition. When there is the deficiency of nutrients like copper and zinc it may lead to leukopenia.
Medicines that are taken for the treatment of certain diseases can also result in the reduction of WBC count. Drugs used for migraine, epilepsy, and many other immunosuppressive drugs can reduce the number of WBC in the body, which can lead to leukopenia. Interferon proteins that are generally used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis can also cause leukopenia.
Antidepressant drugs and drugs that are used to treat smoking addiction can decrease in the total count of white blood cells. Being exposed to radiation or chemotherapies, toxins in the environment or even chemicals can damage WBC. These conditions weaken the WBC system, which makes the body an easy prey to leukopenia.
Leukopenia can be treated naturally with simple home remedies.
1. Green tea
Green tea has many health benefits and can be used to prevent many different diseases. It is rich in vitamins and stimulates white blood cell production. It improves circulation. Green tea also helps in strengthening the immune system.
Echinacea is a medicinal herb that boosts the immune system activity as it is rich in vitamin content.
Eating garlic can help in increasing the total white blood cell count. It also helps in fighting against infections by stimulating immune cells.
4. Zinc content
Zinc is also referred to as an immune booster. It helps in fighting against common cold and flu symptoms. Zinc deficiency in patients increases the risk of infections. Food products such as beef, lamb, oysters, spinach, and wheat germ are rich in zinc, which can increase the WBC count in the blood.
5. Folic acid
Folic acid not only plays a major role in increasing WBC count in the body, but the lack of folic acid in the body can also lead to anemia. Foods rich in folic acids are spinach, citrus fruits, and beans.
Recent research says that selenium can help in making white blood cells. Selenium also helps in preventing chronic infections. The antioxidant power of selenium lowers oxidative stress, which helps in enriching the immune system and reducing inflammation
[ Read: Diet High in Selenium ]
People who consume more amounts of probiotics have a stronger immune system than people who do not consume it. Probiotic also boost the total white blood cell count in the body of the patient.
Apart from the medication and supplement, it is recommended to have a nutritious diet to prevent the risk of different diseases. Intake of nutrients through a healthy diet is highly recommended than artificial supplements.
Therapies like cytokine therapy can also be used to increase the total white blood cell count. A healthy lifestyle, along with a perfectly balanced nutritious diet helps in regaining the white blood cells count.
1. Is leukopenia cancer?
leukopenia is not cancer. But, cancer or leukemia cancer can lead to cancer.
2. What foods to avoid if you have low white blood cells?
Avoid caffeine, unpasteurized dairy products, raw foods, meat, fish, eggs, cheese, baked foods, and also foods with high sugar content.
3. Can leukopenia be normal?
Although leukopenia is dangerous to the body, proper care and treatment can help in effectively reducing leukopenia.