- 1WHAT IS NEUTROPENIA?
- Neutropenia is a condition that occurs when you have a lower-than-normal level of a type of white blood cell (neutrophil) in your body. Neutrophils are made in the spongy centre of large bones (bone marrow), and they fight infections.
- Neutrophils are your body’s main defence against bacterial and fungal infections. The fewer neutrophils you have and the longer your body remains without them, the greater your risk of getting a severe infection.
- 2WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
This condition can occur if your body uses up or destroys neutrophils faster than your bone marrow can make them. This problem may happen because of:
- Bacterial or fungal infection.
- Allergic disorders.
- Reactions to some medicines.
- Autoimmune disease.
- An enlarged spleen.
This condition can also occur if your bone marrow does not produce enough neutrophils. This problem may be caused by:
- Cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
- Viral infections.
- Medicines, such as phenytoin.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Diseases of the bone marrow.
- Environmental toxins, such as insecticides.
- 3WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS?
This condition does not usually cause symptoms. If symptoms are present, they are usually caused by an underlying infection. Symptoms of an infection may include:
- Swollen glands.
- Oral or anal ulcers.
- Cough and shortness of breath.
- Skin infection.
- 4HOW IS THIS DIAGNOSED?
Your health care provider may suspect neutropenia if you have:
- A condition that may cause neutropenia.
- Symptoms of infection, especially fever.
- Frequent and unusual infections.
You will have a medical history and physical exam. Tests will also be done, such as:
- A complete blood count (CBC).
- A procedure to collect a sample of bone marrow for examination (bone marrow biopsy).
- A chest X-ray.
- A urine culture.
- A blood culture.
- 5HOW IS THIS TREATED?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of your condition. Mild neutropenia may not require treatment. Treatment may include medicines, such as:
- Antibiotic medicine is given through an IV tube.
- Antiviral medicines.
- Antifungal medicines.
- A medicine to increase neutrophil production (colony-stimulating factor). You may get this drug through an IV tube or by injection.
- Steroids are given through an IV tube.
If an underlying condition is causing neutropenia, you may need treatment for that condition. If medicines you are taking are causing neutropenia, your health care provider may have you stop taking those medicines.
FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS AT HOME:
- Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
- Get a seasonal flu shot (influenza vaccine).
- Do not eat unpasteurized foods. Do not eat unwashed raw fruits or vegetables.
- Avoid exposure to groups of people or children.
- Avoid being around people who are sick.
- Avoid being around dirt or dust, such as in construction areas or gardens.
- Do not provide direct care for pets. Avoid animal droppings. Do not clean litter boxes and bird cages.
- Bathe daily.
- Clean the area between the genitals and the anus (perineal area) after you urinate or have a bowel movement. If you are female, wipe from front to back.
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush before and after meals.
- Do not use a razor that has a blade. Use an electric razor to remove hair.
- Wash your hands often. Make sure others who come in contact with you also wash their hands. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Do not have sex unless your health care provider has approved.
- Take actions to avoid cuts and burns. For example:
- Be cautious when you use knives. Always cut away from yourself.
- Keep knives in protective sheaths or guards when not in use.
- Use oven mitts when you cook with a hot stove, oven, or grill.
- Stand a safe distance away from open fires.
- Avoid people who received a vaccine in the past 30 days if that vaccine contained a live version of the germ (live vaccine). You should not get a live vaccine. Common live vaccines are varicella, measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Do not share food utensils.
- Do not use tampons, enemas, or rectal suppositories unless your health care provider has approved.
- Keep all appointments as told by your health care provider. This is important.
CONTACT A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:
- You have a fever.
- You have chills, or you start to shake.
- You have:
- A sore throat.
- A warm, red, or tender area on your skin.
- A cough.
- Frequent or painful urination.
- Vaginal discharge or itching.
- You develop:
- Sores in your mouth or anus.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Red streaks on the skin.
- A rash.
- You feel:
- Nauseous or you vomit.
- Very fatigued.
- Short of breath.