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What is Granulocytopenia?

This medical condition is when there is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, also referred to as granulocytes, which appear covered with granules when you look at them under a microscope. It is referred to as agranulocytosis it means that there are no granulocytes in your white blood cells.

In the white blood cell group there are three different types, which are:

  • Basophiles – this is an extremely rare white blood cell and makes up less than one percent of all the white blood cells in your body. These initiate inflammatory responses.
  • Neutrophils – this is one of the most common types of white blood cells and is used for fighting disease by consuming foreign cells the body perceives as a threat.
  • Eosinophils – this is the type of white blood cell that is involve in immune system responses and increase when you have an allergic reaction.

Granulocytopenia can happen to anyone of any age, race, or gender but seems to affect Yemenite Jews and African-Americans the most.

Symptoms of Granulocytopenia

Because granulocytopenia affects your white blood cells persons who have this medical condition will usually have a higher risk of infections. Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Having recurring or chronic infections that can be viral, bacterial, or fungal in nature. These infections can affect your lungs, throat, skin, etc.
  • Running a low-grade fever
  • Gum pain that is persistent
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Skin abscesses
  • Swollen cervical glands
  • Ear and sinus infections
  • Pneumonia or bronchitis

If it is a severe case of granulocytopenia a person may have the following symptoms.

  • Spleens that are enlarged.
  • Exhibit reddish-purple spots on your body which is called petechial bleeding.

Granulocytopenia Causes

There are many different reasons that can affect this group of white blood cells from existing or developing. Some of the reasons or causes of granulocytopenia can include:

  • Certain medical conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.
  • Infections or autoimmune disorders that affect the granulocyte count as the white blood cells migrate to the tissues after leaving the circulating blood and are invaded by microbes or disturbance.
  • Medical treatment and medications such as steroidal and non-steroidal medications and anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Certain medications may diminish granulocyte counts such as certain antihypertensive, cardiac, or antibiotic medications.
  • It may inherited
  • Any medical disease that causes failure of your bone marrow to produce new cells to replace old cells because white blood cells have a certain lifespan. Some of these diseases include diseases that produce bone marrow tumors or fibrosis, or leukemia.
  • Having a severe injury that causes a hemorrhage and shock, which will naturally decrease the granulocyte count.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation which could interfere with new formation of white blood cells or destroy mature healthy white blood cells.

Granulocytopenia Diagnosis

Granulocytopenia is diagnosed by the physician doing a patient history to see if there are precipitating factors that could cause this disorder and looking at your symptoms. The physician will also do a physical examination to see if there are any underlying disorders. The physician will also order blood tests to check for the white blood cell count and may even need to do a bone marrow test. The physician may also do a genetic test to see if the disease is inherited.

Granulocytopenia Treatment

Before any treatment can be started the physician will need to find out the underlying cause of granulocytopenia and treat that cause. If it is being caused by an infection the physician will usually prescribe anti-microbial medications. If the cause is a medication you are taking all it may take is for the physician to make a dosage adjustment. It is very important for the physician to identify and eliminate whatever is causing granulocytopenia because if not you will still have granulocytopenia. The physician may have to stop any radiation or chemotherapy you are undergoing and immediately start antibiotic treatment.

The physician may use a treatment to help stimulate your bone marrow to start producing neutrophils by giving you granulocytemacrophage colony or granulocyte stimulating factors. In cases of untreated severe granulocytopenia you could die within three to six days so it is very important to be checked out by your physician if you think you have this disorder.

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  1. Granulocytopenia was flagged on my CBC but I was never told. I found out by looking on my EMR. Should I say something?

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