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Neutropenia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options


Neutropenia, a condition characterised by abnormally low levels of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell crucial for fighting infections, presents unique challenges and considerations.

From understanding its causes and symptoms to exploring treatment options and lifestyle modifications, navigating Neutropenia requires insight and awareness.

In this blog, we delve into the intricacies of this condition, offering valuable information and insights for those affected and their caregivers.

What is Neutropenia?

Neutropenia indicates low levels of neutrophils in the blood, crucial white blood cells that combat infections. Without enough neutrophils, the body struggles to fend off germs, increasing infection risk.

Severe cases may result in sickness from typically harmless bacteria found in the mouth and intestines.

What are the Symptoms of Neutropenia?

Symptoms of neutropenia vary in severity, correlating with the level of neutrophils in the body. Common indicators encompass:

  • Fever
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinus infections
  • Otitis media (ear infection)
  • Gingivitis (gum inflammation)
  • Omphalitis (navel infection)
  • Skin abscesses

Severe congenital neutropenia manifests with significant symptoms, predominantly bacterial infections that can affect the skin, digestive tract, and respiratory system.

Cyclic neutropenia symptoms follow a 3-week cycle, with increased susceptibility to infections during periods of low neutrophil levels.

Autoimmune and idiopathic neutropenia also exhibit infection-related symptoms, typically less severe than those observed in congenital cases.

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What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Neutropenia?

Neutropenia occurs when the bone marrow fails to produce enough neutrophils, they break down prematurely or are destroyed. Causes include:

  • Genetic conditions like benign ethnic neutropenia (BEN), cyclic neutropenia, and severe congenital neutropenia.
  • Infections such as HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
  • Cancer like leukaemia and lymphoma.
  • Medications like chemotherapy.
  • Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12, folate).
  • Autoimmune diseases, including lupus and Crohn’s disease.

Chronic idiopathic neutropenia is a subtype without a clear cause.

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How is Neutropenia Diagnosed?

Your doctor may utilise the following examinations for diagnosing neutropenia:

  1. Complete blood count (CBC): This assesses neutrophil levels. Periodic CBC assessments can enable your doctor to monitor neutrophil count fluctuations thrice weekly for six weeks.
  2. Antibody blood test: This examines for autoimmune neutropenia.
  3. Bone marrow aspirate: This procedure evaluates bone marrow cell characteristics.
  4. Bone marrow biopsy: This entails analysing a segment of the osseous portion of bone marrow.
  5. Cytogenetic and molecular testing: These tests aid healthcare providers in analysing cell structures.

What is the Treatment for Neutropenia?

Certain forms of neutropenia may not necessitate treatment. Alternative treatment modalities are contingent upon the underlying cause of your diminished neutrophil levels. Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics combat febrile neutropenia, administered intravenously in hospitals.
  • Corticosteroids are prescribed for autoimmune conditions, suppressing immune responses and causing neutrophil destruction.
  • Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) stimulates white blood cell production, often used alongside chemotherapy.

Medication-induced neutropenia may require adjusting or stopping the drug. Treatment varies; some cases don’t need intervention. Fever with neutropenia requires prompt medical attention to prevent complications.

What is the Prevention Method for Neutropenia?

There is no known specific method to prevent neutropenia, however, some recommendations to minimise complications are:

  1. Maintain good oral hygiene by undergoing regular dental check-ups and using an antibacterial mouthwash.
  2. Keep vaccinations up to date.
  3. Seek medical attention for a fever above 101.3°F (38.5°C).
  4. Thoroughly wash your hands.
  5. Properly care for cuts and scrapes.
  6. Use antibiotics and antifungals as prescribed.
  7. Ensure you know how to contact your doctor and the nearest hospital.
  8. Consult with your doctor before travelling abroad.

Following these preventive measures can help mitigate potential complications associated with neutropenia. It’s essential to promptly report any symptoms to your doctor and always have access to medical care.

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When Should You See a Doctor for Neutropenia? 

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or have a condition predisposing you to neutropenia, it’s crucial to promptly seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms or reach out to your healthcare provider immediately for guidance:

  1. A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.
  2. Experiencing sweating or chills.
  3. Difficulty breathing.
  4. Nasal congestion.
  5. Sore throat or stiffness in the neck.
  6. Development of a new or worsening cough.
  7. Experiencing diarrhoea and/or vomiting.
  8. Vaginal discharge or irritation.
  9. Noticeable soreness, redness, or swelling in any part of your body.
  10. Changes in urination such as pain, burning sensation, or increased frequency.
  11. Onset of new pain, particularly in the abdomen or rectum.
  12. Experiencing confusion or a deviation from your usual mental state.
  13. Feeling more fatigued than usual or a general sense of unwellness.


Neutropenia poses significant challenges, but with early detection, proper management, and ongoing medical care, individuals can lead fulfilling lives while effectively navigating this condition’s complexities. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced general physician. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a general physician, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.


Is Neutropenia Curable?

Neutropenia, a condition characterised by low levels of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), can be managed with treatments such as medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes stem cell transplants.

How Does Neutropenia Affect Daily Life?

Neutropenia increases susceptibility to infections, impacting daily life with frequent illness, strict hygiene practices, avoidance of crowded places, and sometimes limitations on certain activities and foods to prevent infections.

Can Neutropenia Be Prevented?

Neutropenia prevention involves avoiding known risk factors like certain medications, maintaining good hygiene practices, seeking prompt medical attention for infections, and following a healthy lifestyle to support immune function.

What Are the Best Dietary Practices for Someone With Neutropenia?

Dietary practices for neutropenia involve consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and probiotics while avoiding raw or undercooked foods and practising good food safety measures.

How Often Should Someone With Neutropenia See Their Doctor?

Someone with neutropenia should follow their doctor’s recommendations, typically involving regular check-ups to monitor blood cell counts and overall health, with frequency determined by the severity of their condition.

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