Agranulocytosis is a disorder in which the neutrophil level is lower than 100 per microliter of blood. This condition is considered severe and even fatal. If not promptly treated, it can result to death from septicemia or blood infection.
The granulocytes or neutrophils are the white blood cells comprising the immune system. These cells contain enzymes that eliminate bacteria and break down substances that might be a threat to the body. If the number of granulocytes is low, an individual is at risk for developing frequent or chronic infections.
What are the indications?
- Fever and chills
- Sores in the mouth, throat or digestive tract
- Chronic infections of the throat, gums or skin
- Drastic drop in the blood pressure that can cause lightheadedness or weakness
What are the causes?
Agranulocytosis might be acquired or hereditary. If acquired, either the bone marrow could not generate adequate stem cells that fully mature as granulocytes or they are rapidly destroyed than can be replaced. Generally, other types of cells such as the platelets or red cells are also affected.
Various causes of acquired agranulocytosis include:
- Exposure to toxic substances such as mercury or arsenic
- Chemotherapy for cancer
- Using some prescription medications such as certain antibiotics and anti-psychotic and ant-thyroid drugs
- Bone marrow disorders such as aplastic anemia
- Other health ailments such as autoimmune disease or tumors
The congenital or hereditary form is brought about by a genetic irregularity.
The treatment for agranulocytosis can be done in various ways such as:
- Cessation of the intake of a medication believed to cause the disease – the doctor might instruct the individual to stop using a drug for a while to see if there is any improvement. The recovery usually takes 10-14 days. Another medication might be given as an alternative.
- Antibiotics – these drugs might be given to prevent bacterial infections and used to manage any infections that develops.
- Immune suppression – if an autoimmune cause is likely, immune-suppressing medications such as prednisone might be given.
- Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor – if other measures fail to work, the individual might be required to take shots of a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to generate more granulocytes. The hormone is produced by the body but there is also a synthetic form.
- Bone marrow transplants – for cases that do not respond to other forms of treatment, a bone marrow transplant might be required. This option can provide the best outcome for individuals below 40 years old and in good condition.
- General measures – individuals with agranulocytosis must avoid crowds. It is also vital to avoid exposure to individuals with infections, vegetables or fruits that could not be peeled, handling cut flowers or working with soil.