Adapted from NEUTROPENIA, Causes, Consequences, and Care, Provided by The Neutropenia Association Inc.1993
Blood is made up of billions of cells. There are many different types of blood cells, but most of the time you hear about two kinds - red cells and white cells. There are more red cells than any other type of blood cell. They are very important as they carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. White blood cells are just as important, but for a very different reason. One of their jobs is to protect you from infection. There are several kinds of white cells. Each has a special function. The most common ones are:
The term neutropenia describes the situation where the number of neutrophils in the blood is too low. Neutrophils are very important in defending the body against bacterial infections, and therefore, a patient with too few neutrophils is more susceptible to bacterial infections. It is determined by calculating the Absolute Neutrophil Count.
Everyone has been sick with an infection at one time or another. That’s because it’s easy for bacteria and viruses that cause infections to get inside the body. Healthy people don’t often get infections even though bacteria and viruses are all around us, even in the air we breathe.
People with neutropenia get infections easily and often. Most of the infections occur in the lungs, mouth and throat, sinuses and skin. Painful mouth ulcers, gum infections, ear infections and periodontal disease are common. Severe, life-threatening infections may occur. Often the child or adult must be hospitalized and receive intravenous antibiotics. Your doctor uses blood tests to find out whether you have enough neutrophils.
The level of neutropenia may vary considerably. In general, the blood of healthy adults contains about 1500 to 7000 neutrophils per mm3 (1.5 - 7.0 x 109 /1). In children under 6 years of age the neutrophil count may be lower. The severity of neutropenia generally depends on the absolute neutrophil count (ANC) and is described as follows: