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FAQ for neutropenia

What is neutropenia ?

Neutropenia is the medical term for a decrease in the number of circulating white blood cells called neutrophils.

What are neutrophils ?

There are three groups of cells that circulate around in the blood stream. These are red cells (often referred to as haemoglobin), platelets (small cells that help in the blood clotting system) and white cells. Neutrophils are a particular type of white cell. Neutrophils are a very important part of the immune system. Neutrophils are very important in protecting the body against bacterial infections.

What is the normal number of neutrophils ?

The number of neutrophils that circulate in the blood stream varies a bit according to age however the usual range of normal neutrophil numbers is 1.5 - 8.0 x 10^9/l (1.5 million - 8 million neutrophils per milliliter) of blood.

What does low neutrophils mean ?

Neutrophils are particularly important in fighting bacterial infections. Bacteria cause a lot of different types of infections (e.g. some ear infections, skin and wound infections) but sometimes these can be serious (e.g. blood infections). Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics (compared to viral infections e.g. flu like illnesses, the common cold which do not need treatment with antibiotics). Because you have low neutrophils, you may be more susceptible to bacterial infections.

Why do I have low neutrophils ?

There are a number of reasons why people have low neutrophils. Some people are born with low neutrophils, other people develop conditions that cause low neutrophils - these include immune problems, exposure to some drugs and some viral infections (such as flu like illnesses). There are a number of other rare causes of neutropenia.

What tests are needed to find out why I have got neutropenia ?

The types of blood tests required to determine the cause of the neutropenia will depend on how long you have had the low neutrophils. Sometimes only one or two blood tests are required; other times many blood tests and even a bone marrow test may be required. We will guide you on the various investigations required to ascertain the cause of low neutrophils and advice regarding appropriate management

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