Lymphocytopenia: Definition, Causes and Symptoms

Lymphocytopenia is a disease characterized by an abnormally low level of lymphocytes in the blood.

Lymphocytes are a specific type of white blood cells with important functions in the immune system.


Lymphocytes normally account for 15 to 40% of all white blood cells, which help protect the body against infections caused by viruses or fungi, also coordinating the activities of other cells in the immune system. In addition, lymphocytes fight cancer and become antibody-producing cells that neutralize the effect of foreign substances in the blood.

The lymphocytopenia is the result of abnormalities in the way the lymphocytes are produced, which when making its way through the bloodstream, are lost or destroyed. These conditions can be the product of congenital or drug-induced decreases as the body recognizes to attack its invaders.

Causes and symptoms

Lymphocytopenia has a wide range of possible causes:

  • AIDS, other viral infections, bacterial and fungal infections-
  • Chronic insufficiency of the right ventricle of heart. This heart chamber pumps blood to the lungs.
  • Diseases and cancers of the Hodgkin lymphatic system
  • A leak or rupture in the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct removes lymph fluid from the legs and abdomen.
  • Leukemia.
  • Side effects of prescription medications.
  • The desnutrition. Diets that are low in protein and total caloric intake can cause lymphopenia.
  • Radiotherapy.
  • High levels of stress
  • Trauma.

The symptoms of lymphocytopenia vary. Lymphocytes make up only a fraction of white blood cells in the body, and a decrease in their number can not produce any symptoms. A patient who has lymphocytopenia may have symptoms of the disease responsible for lowering the lymphocyte level .


Lymphocytopenia is most often detected when blood tests are done to diagnose other diseases.


The treatment for lymphocytopenia is designed to identify and correct the underlying cause of the condition. Low levels of drug-induced lymphocytes usually return to normal or within a few days after the patient stops taking the medication.

A deficiency of B lymphocytes, which mature in plasma cells that produce antibodies, can lead to abnormally low levels. When the number of B lymphocytes is low, the patient can be treated with antibiotics, antifungal medications, antiviral agents, or a substance that contains a high concentration of antibodies (gamma globulin) to prevent infection.

It is usually not possible to restore normal lymphocyte levels in patients with AIDS. Drugs such as AZT (azidothymidine, sold under the tradename Retrovir) can increase the number of helper T cells, which help other cells to kill disease organisms.


Low levels of lymphocytes make patients vulnerable to the life-threatening infection. Researchers are studying the effectiveness of bone marrow and other cell transplantation to restore normal lymphocyte levels. Gene therapy, which uses the body’s own resources or artificial substances to counteract diseases or disorders, is also being evaluated as an alternative treatment for lymphocytopenia .