What Is Lymphopenia?
Lymphopenia which is also known by the term of lymphocytopenia is a pathological condition that arises as a result of abnormally low lymphocyte count in the blood. Normally severe forms of Lymphopenia indicate the presence of an infection or an underlying medical condition which requires further investigation.
Lymphocytes form a part of the immune system of the body. Their function is to attack any foreign organism that may have infiltrated the body and destroy them in order to protect the body. Lymphocytes also play a major role in boosting the immunity of an individual.
There are three main cells that form a lymphocyte which are the T-Cell, B-Cells, and the NK-Cells. An abnormally low level of T-Cells or NK-cells makes the body predisposed to various bacterial and fungal infections while low levels of B-cells may cause harmful infections to the affected individual as a result of Lymphopenia.
What Causes Lymphopenia?
As stated, Lymphopenia is an indication of either an ongoing infection or an underlying medical illness which requires thorough investigation. Lymphopenia is basically an acquired condition meaning that there are no chances of an individual inheriting the condition. Among all forms of Lymphopenia, T-Cell Lymphopenia is the most common.
Some of the causes of T-Cell Lymphopenia are autoimmune disorders like lupus, myasthenia gravis or rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who are currently undergoing cancer treatments may also develop T-Cell Lymphopenia. In some cases blood disorders may also cause Lymphopenia to include aplastic anemia or other blood infections.
Any type of viral or bacterial infections may also lead to Lymphopenia which includes HIV/AIDS, influenza, malaria, viral hepatitis, TB, typhoid, or sepsis. In extremely rare cases, Lymphopenia can be inherited by individuals with congenital conditions like ataxia-telangiectasia or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
Malnutrition is yet another cause for Lymphopenia. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa also may lead to an abnormally low lymphocyte count. There are also certain gastrointestinal conditions which may cause Lymphopenia like celiac disease or amyloidosis.
There are also certain medications which may result in an individual having Lymphopenia. These medications are azathioprine, carbamazepine, corticosteroids, and opioids. In some cases, trauma related to a surgical procedure may also lead to development of Lymphopenia. The most common surgical procedure which may cause Lymphopenia is a cardiac bypass which is a complex surgery to treat individuals with blocks in the arteries of the heart.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lymphopenia?
Lymphopenia in itself does not cause any symptoms but an individual may experience symptoms of the condition which may be causing low levels of lymphocytes. These symptoms include:
- Persistent cough
- Runny nose
- Lymph node enlargement
- Pain in various joints of the body
- Rashes on the skin surface
- Night sweats
- Unintentional weight loss
How Is Lymphopenia Diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose Lymphopenia is to conduct a complete blood profile which will clearly show below normal lymphocyte count which will confirm the diagnosis of Lymphopenia.
How Is Lymphopenia Treated?
The treatment for Lymphopenia depends on the underlying cause. Treating the cause normally brings the lymphocytes levels back to normal. Treatment depends on the cause. The patient may be given medications to prevent any infections from developing and in case there is an infection causing low levels of lymphocytes then treating the infection with appropriate antibiotics or antiviral is recommended.
Since the immune system is compromised due to Lymphopenia, the patient may be given medications to boost the immunity and protect the body from any other most serious infections. In case if a medication is the cause of Lymphopenia, then physician may stop the medication in question and prescribe another mediation to treat the medical condition.
For individuals with HIV/AIDS related Lymphopenia, antiretroviral drugs will be given to decrease the overall viral load and try and bring the lymphocyte count back to normal.
For treating B-Cell Lymphopenia, the patient may be given gammaglobulin. In case of a blood disorder causing the condition, then a bone marrow transplant may be of benefit in treating Lymphopenia.
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