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Low WBC count in the blood

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Low WBC count in the blood
Last update: 21/01/2021

What is a low count of WBC in the blood called?

  • Leukopenia

What is the normal count of WBC in the blood?

If you need to know which are the WBC reference ranges or you require more information about the role of WBC in the blood, you can visit normal WBC count in the blood

What does a low count of WBC in the blood mean?

A low WBC count means that there is a low amount of WBCs in the bloodstream and it is called leukopenia. WBCs (White Blood Cells), also called leukocytes, are usually measured in thousand per microliter (µl).

The most frequent causes for a low WBC count are:

  • Primary bone marrow disorders where bone marrow is unable to produce enough amount of WBCs.
  • Immunodeficiency diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Chemotherapy agents, and radiation.
  • Exposure to lead, mercury.

The decrease in the total WBC count is usually related to a decrease in neutrophils, a specific type of leukocytes. People with a low WBC count are more prone to suffer from infections. They should avoid cut and burns. They should be aware of a proper disinfection of small wounds.

Leukopenia or a low WBC count means:

  • Mild leukopenia (3 - 4.5 x 103/µl in adults):

    A mild leukopenia usually does not show any symptom associated. It is necessary to monitor the level in future blood test to see the evolution.

  • Moderate leukopenia (2 – 3 x 103/µl in adults):

    A moderate leukopenia require a visit to your doctor. He will study your case and he will give you a possible diagnosis and the proper treatment.

  • Marked leukopenia (1 - 2 x 103/µl in adults):

    A white blood cell count below 2 x 103 per cubic millimeter of blood is usually a matter for concern. You need immediate help attention and sometimes hospitalization is required.

  • Severe leukopenia (< 1 x 103/µl in adults):

    A white blood cell count below 1 x 103 per cubic millimeter of blood is as serious health matter and requires urgent attention.

    A WBC count below 0.5 x 103 is extremely dangerous and often fatal.

Which factors can decrease the WBC count in the blood?

Some particular health situation and many drugs may reduce your WBC count:

  • Metal poisoning
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Drugs
    • Pain killers
      • Aminopyrine
    • Antiplatelet drug
      • Ticlopidine
    • Antiarrhythmic agents
      • Quinidine
    • Antibiotics
    • Antidepressant
      • Bupropion
    • Antiepileptic drugs
      • Lamotrigine
    • Antihistamine
    • Antipsychotics
      • Chlorpromazine
      • Clozapine
      • Phenothiazines
    • Antithyroid agent
    • Diuretics
    • ACE inhibitor
      • Captopril
    • Immunosuppressive drug
      • Ciclosporin
      • Sirolimus
      • Tacrolimus

Which diseases can decrease your WBC count in the blood?

The following diseases can explain a WBC count lower than normal:

  • Hypersplenism
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Anorexia
  • Typhoid fever
  • Malaria
  • Brucellosis

What can I do to increase the WBC count in the blood?

WBC count can be increased if the underlying cause is treated.

Your doctor may consider:

  • Review the medication you are taking at present looking for possible interferences.
  • Prescribe you corticosteroids and vitamin B supplements to increase WBC production.

Where can I find more information about WBC count in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low WBC count in the blood?

The following values are considered to be above the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in number/µl (microliter). They are an example of a healthy woman of about 45 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

WBC Count
Mild leukopenia
4.4 x 103/µl4.3 x 103/µl4.2 x 103/µl4.1 x 103/µl4 x 103/µl3.9 x 103/µl3.8 x 103/µl3.7 x 103/µl
3.6 x 103/µl3.5 x 103/µl3.4 x 103/µl3.3 x 103/µl3.2 x 103/µl3.1 x 103/µl3 x 103/µl 
Moderate leukopenia
2.9 x 103/µl2.8 x 103/µl2.7 x 103/µl2.6 x 103/µl2.5 x 103/µl2.4 x 103/µl2.3 x 103/µl2.2 x 103/µl
2.1 x 103/µl2 x 103/µl      
Marked leukopenia
1.9 x 103/µl1.8 x 103/µl1.7 x 103/µl1.6 x 103/µl1.5 x 103/µl1.4 x 103/µl1.3 x 103/µl1.2 x 103/µl
1.1 x 103/µl1 x 103/µl      
Severe leukopenia
0.9 x 103/µl0.8 x 103/µl0.7 x 103/µl0.6 x 103/µl0.5 x 103/µl0.4 x 103/µl0.3 x 103/µl0.2 x 103/µl
0.1 x 103/µl0 x 103/µl      
Medically reviewed by our Medical staff on 21/01/2021

Bibliography

  • A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Test. 9th edition. Frances Fischbach. Marshall B. Dunning III. 2014. Pag 67. ISBN-10: 1451190891.
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures with nursing diagnoses (8th ed), Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks, ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6, Pag. 46.
  • Essentials of Medical Laboratory Practice. Constance L. Lieseke, Elizabeth A. Zeibig. 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8036-1899-2 Pag: 272.
  • Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE). Version 5.0.Published: November 27, 2017. U.S. Department of health and human Services. Available on: https://ctep.cancer.gov

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