They are among the different types of white blood cells that help fight infection.
Monocytes are produced in the bone marrow, a spongy tissue that is present in the hollow of the bone.
Monocytes, along with other types of white blood cells, are part of the human immune system. They defend the body against bacteria and viruses, help remove dead tissue, and attack cancer cells.
Monocytes can be easily identified under the microscope with their distinctive kidney-shaped nuclei.
Once formed in the bone marrow, monocytes travel to the bloodstream, where they remain for a few hours and migrate to different body tissues such as the spleen, lungs, and liver, where they mature.
Of the total number of leukocytes that circulate in the blood of a healthy individual, only 1 to 10 percent are monocytes; the rest are other types of white blood cells.
People suffering from a low monocyte count are at increased risk of bacterial infection, especially related to the urinary and gastrointestinal tracts.
A simple complete blood count test helps determine the monocyte count.
Causes of low monocyte count
Monocytopenia or low monocyte count is due to many factors. Several medical conditions can lead to reduced monocyte count; some of them are mentioned below:
Vitamin B12 deficiency: This vitamin is essential for the sufficient production of white blood cells, which also includes monocytes. A low monocyte count without any infection suggests a vitamin B12 deficiency.
AIDS / HIV: The immune system is weakened in AIDS and HIV infection. People with this disease often have abnormalities in their bone marrow. This can cause the suppression of monocyte production in the marrow.
Aplastic anemia: is a type of anemia in which the bone marrow is damaged. As a result, there is a shutdown of various blood cells, including white blood cells.
Radiation, chemotherapy, exposure to toxic chemicals, certain medications, and viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, and EB virus, all can trigger aplastic anemia.
Lupus: is an autoimmune disease in which the bone marrow can be suppressed. Monocyte production can be affected by this disease.
Herpes of the genital tract: It is an infection caused by the human papillomavirus. In this condition, the monocyte count is found below.
Tuberculosis: This bacterial infection predominantly affects the lungs and gastrointestinal tract and can affect the bone marrow and its function. Therefore, it can lead to a low monocyte count.
Signs and symptoms of low monocyte count
A low monocyte count does not produce any symptoms. However, the person may have signs of an underlying disease that can reduce the number of monocytes in the body. Some of the common symptoms found when there is a low monocyte count are as follows:
- Fatigue: Patients with a low monocyte count often get tired and exhausted. This can affect your daily activity.
- Frequent infections: different pathogens can easily invade tissues and cells when there is a decrease in the monocyte count. This will lead to frequent infections such as cough and cold, sore throat, etc.
- Shortness of breath – You can often find low monocyte numbers when the red blood cell count is low. When there is a low level of red blood cells, the oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced, which can cause dyspnea.
What is the treatment to increase your number of monocytes?
Several factors must be considered for the treatment of low monocytes. It also depends on the underlying factor responsible for causing monocytopenia.
The severity of monocytopenia is also considered the symptoms of infections. The goal is to increase leukocyte production, which goes down.
The infection is usually treated with antibiotics. In some cases, the WBC growth factor is administered. Corticosteroids are often used to raise the level of WBC in some cases.
In addition to the different medications, the patient is also advised to eat a nutritious diet and prevent the infection from spreading.