Neutropenia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition: People with neutropenia have an unusually low number of cells called neutrophils.

Neutrophils are cells of the immune system that attack bacteria and other organisms when they invade your body.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell, which is created by the bone marrow; They then travel through the bloodstream and travel to areas of infection, releasing chemicals to kill the invading microorganisms.

The symptoms of neutropenia

Neutropenia usually does not cause symptoms, but in some cases people only learn they have this disease when they have a blood test for some unrelated reason. Infections can occur from a complication of neutropenia and occur more frequently in mucous membranes, such as the inside of the mouth and skin.

These infections can appear as:

  • Ulcers
  • Abscesses (accumulations of pus)
  • Eruptions
  • Wounds that take a long time to heal
  • Fever is also a common symptom of the infection.

The risk of serious infection usually increases when:

  • Neutrophil count decreases
  • The duration of severe neutropenia becomes longer

The causes of neutropenia include:

  • Problems with the production of neutrophils in the bone marrow
  • The destruction of neutrophils outside the bone marrow
  • Infection
  • The nutritional deficiency

The causes of the decrease in neutrophil production include:

  • Being born with a problem in the production of neutrophils in the bone marrow (congenital)
  • Leukemia and other conditions that affect the bone marrow or lead to bone marrow failure
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Infections that can cause neutropenia include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Dengue fever
  • Viral infections such as Epstein Barr virus, cytomegalovirus and HIV viral hepatitis
  • The increased destruction of neutrophils may be due to the body’s immune system and the targeting thereof.
This may be related to having an autoimmune disease, such as:
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
In some people, neutropenia can be caused by certain medications, such as:
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications for blood pressure
  • Psychiatric drugs
  • Drugs for epilepsy


When deciding on treatment, doctors should consider the cause and severity of neutropenia . Mild cases may not need any treatment.

  • Approaches to the treatment of neutropenia include:
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Medications to suppress the immune system

A treatment factor called colony stimulating granulocyte stimulates the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells and is used for several types of neutropenia, including congenital types. This treatment can save lives in these cases.

Stem cell transplants may be useful in the treatment of some types of severe neutropenia, including those caused by bone marrow problems.