What is Neutropenia?

Neutropenia is a condition in which an individual has an abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. Neutrophils are a type of granulocyte (white blood cell) responsible for fighting infections. Having a low neutrophil count leaves a person more vulnerable to certain types of infections. Neutropenia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including certain types of cancer and their treatments.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of neutropenia vary depending on the cause. Possible signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Reoccurring bacterial infections
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

Causes of Neutropenia

Neutropenia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics, anti-seizure medications, and chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Genetic disorders, such as Kostmann’s syndrome and cyclic neutropenia
  • Immune disorders, such as lupus
  • Chemical exposure, such as radiation, benzene, or pesticides
  • Bone marrow disorders, such as aplastic anemia

Treatment for Neutropenia

The treatment for neutropenia depends on the underlying cause. Treatment may involve medications such as antibiotics and antifungals to treat infections, medications to stimulate the production of neutrophils, or chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

In severe cases, it may be necessary to receive antibiotics or other medications through an intravenous line, or to receive a blood transfusion.