Neutropenia - Describe Your Experience

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What is neutropenia?

Neutropenia is a condition in which the number of neutrophils in the bloodstream is decreased. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell also known as polymorphonuclear leukocytes or PMNs. Neutropenia affects the body's ability to fight off infections.

White blood cells are also known as leukocytes. There are five major types of white blood cells:

  1. basophils,

  2. eosinophils,

  3. lymphocytes (T-cells and B-cells),
  4. monocytes, and

  5. neutrophils.

Some white blood cells, called granulocytes, are filled with microscopic granules that are little sacs containing enzymes (compounds that digest microorganisms). Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are all granulocytes and are part of the innate immune system with somewhat nonspecific, broad-based activity. They do not respond exclusively to specific antigens, as do the lymphocytes (B-cells and T-cells).

Neutrophils contain enzymes that help the cell kill and digest microorganisms it has engulfed by a process known as phagocytosis. The mature neutrophil has a segmented nucleus (it is often called a 'seg' or 'poly'), while the immature neutrophil has a band-shape nucleus (it is called a band). Neutrophils are made in the bone marrow and released into the bloodstream. The neutrophil has a life-span of about three days.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Chrishuk, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: July 28

I have been on morphine for over a year and a half, 130 mg daily for knee pain. Recently I had pre operation tests done for a knee replacement which picked up a low white cell count. I've read that large doses of morphine can suppress white cell production and cause neutropenia. Apart from the knee pain I am relatively fit for a 64 year old male.

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Comment from: Bobby, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 30

As a child virtually everything would give me a rash if it touched my skin. My mum would take me to the family doctor asking why out of all the children she had I was the one getting all these rashes and randomly getting fevers. My dad would back my mum up but the doctor wasn't interested. It got to the point one of my older brothers and older sisters were worried about the random infections I got especially when I had bleeding feet but the doctor wasn't interested. I had few problems in my teenage years then around 21 I started to get frequent skin infections including on my face. No one knew why. At 35 I had lots of sinus issues. Again no one knew why. One family doctor was even rude enough to imply I was making them up as my blood test was 'normal'. Eventually at 37 a nurse did a full blood test to check why I was tired and ill. Amongst the results it was noted my neutrophil count was low. The test was repeated but it was normal. This worried a female family doctor who rang me up and told me to get antibiotics if I had any infections. The blood tests were repeated a few more times over the year with varying results from normal to low. I then got all my test results including the 'normal' one which was actually neutropenic, and noticed that my neutrophil counted varied from normal to low. I changed practices and another family doctor claimed my results were normal which I didn't believe as it's not normal to have skin infections, chills, sinus problems and gingivitis randomly. However one of his colleagues said to again get antibiotics if I was ill. I then spoke to a pediatrician I know and she said that it's likely I had cyclical neutropenia and to take hygiene precautions even though the neutropenia is mild. She said she sees it regularly and lots of family doctors just don't know what they are looking at so ignore it, while others are worried about it.

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