Agranulocytosis

Agranulocytosis is a low level of white blood cells. These blood cells are part of the immune system. They help fight infections. Agranulocytosis may be:

  • Causes

    Agranulocytosis is caused by destruction of white blood cells or by the failure of bone marrow to make enough white blood cells.

    With congenital agranulocytosis, these problems are caused by a genetic defect.

    With acquired agranulocytosis, these problems may be caused by:

    • Infections by virus, bacteria, or parasite
    • Underlying inflammatory condition
    • Chemotherapy
    • Drugs—used in medical treatment or recreational use
    • Autoimmune disease—your immune systems attacks your own tissue such as white blood cells
    • Damage to bone marrow usually by chemicals, radiation, or cancers
    • Certain toxins
    • Poor nutrition—particularly low protein intake

  • Definition

    Agranulocytosis is a low level of white blood cells. These blood cells are part of the immune system. They help fight infections.

    Agranulocytosis may be:

    • Acquired—Develops after medical treatment or specific drugs. May appear suddenly or develop over time.

    • Congenital—present at birth

      • Cyclic neutropenia—cycles up and down over a 21-day period
      • Severe congenital neutropenia
    White Blood Cells
    White Blood Cells
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will be asked about recent infections, medical treatments, and medications. A physical exam will be done.

    Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

    • Blood tests
    • Bone marrow test
    • Urine tests

  • Prevention

    Your doctor will monitor you if you are taking medication or having medical treatment that could lead to agranulocytosis. You may be given white blood cell stimulating medications before having treatments. This may prevent agranulocytosis.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of developing agranulocytosis include:

    • Undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer
    • Taking certain medications, including some antithyroid medication, antidepressants, antihistamines, and anticonvulsants
    • Infection
    • Exposure to certain chemical toxins or radiation
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Enlargement of the spleen
    • Vitamin B-12 or folate deficiency
    • Leukemia
      or
      myelodysplastic syndromes
    • Aplastic anemia or other diseases of the bone marrow
    • Family history of certain genetic diseases

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of agranulocytosis may include:


    • Rapid onset of fever, chills,
      jaundice, weakness, or
      sore throat
    • Mouth sores
    • Bleeding gums

    Symptoms of congenital agranulocytosis may include:

    • Mild infections of skin, mouth, and nose
    • Poor weight gain in children

  • Treatment

    Treatment will be based on the type and cause of agranulocytosis that you have. Options include the following: