White blood cells, or WBC, are produced in the bone marrow and are the disease-fighting cells of the body. According to MedLinePlus, a low WBC count, also called leukopenia or neutropenia, is when the concentration of white blood cells in the body are less than 4,500 cells per microliter of blood.
What Are the Treatments for Low White Blood Cells (WBC) Levels?
There are five sort of white blood cells– neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils– however leukopenia typically refers to low neutrophils, the white blood cells that battle bacterial infections. MayoClinic.com notes numerous causes of leukopenia: bone marrow failure from infection, growth invasion or scarring, autoimmune illness such as lupus, hazardous exposure consisting of drugs and radiation, diseases of liver or spleen, and overwhelming infection. Treatment of leukopenia is based upon the underlying cause, seriousness and presence of affiliated infection.
Removal of Agents & Addition of Vitamins
Elimination of possible causative agents such as drugs or toxins often is all that is needed to bring back a white blood cell count to regular, according to the The Merck Manual. Other initial measures include treating underlying vitamin deficiencies, including B-12 and folate, as well as infectious etiologies. Given that infection is the main concern with neutropenia, cautious hand washing and avoidance of ill contacts is necessary.
A low white blood cell count normally is caused by:
- Viral infections that momentarily disrupt the work of bone marrow
- Particular conditions present at birth (congenital) that involve diminished bone marrow function
- Cancer (or other diseases that damage bone marrow).
- Autoimmune conditions that ruin white blood cells or bone marrow cells.
- Severe infections that use up white blood cells much faster than they can be produced.
- Medications, such as antibiotics, that damage white blood cells.
WBC Growth Factors
An article in the September 2006 issue of Annals of Oncology reports that using medications that stimulate the bone marrow to produce white blood cells is a mainstay of leukopenia treatment, according to iytmed.com. The two most widely used so-called growth elements are Neupogen and Neulasta. These drugs are provided as an injection and work in increasing WBC levels. Nevertheless, they need to be used with great care in patients with sickle cell condition, irregularities in red blood cells, myelodysplasia and chronic myeloid leukemia. When using WBC growth elements, timely healthcare should be sought for symptoms of abrupt abdominal pain, shortness of breath or signs of infection. Steroids might be used for immune-mediated leukopenia and function by redistributing existing white blood cells so they can be better utilized.
To prevent infections with leukopenia, antibiotics are often used, though there is a concern for the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The Merck Manual lists Bactrim as a typically used prophylactic antibiotic, however negative side effects may result. There are now studies supporting the effective use of levofloxacin in preventing serious bacterial infections in leukopenic patients. Less data is available for the prophylactic use of anti-viral and anti-fungal drugs but need to be thought about in severe leukopenia.