What is Low Lymphocytes or Lymphocytopenia?
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If a person is suffering from an abnormally less number of lymphocytes, then this medical condition is known as Lymphocytopenia. Lymphocytes are a type of WBC or white blood corpuscles that play many vital roles in the human immune system. It includes safeguarding the body against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. The WBC is typically made up of 20% to 40% of lymphocytes. The average lymphocyte count in the bloodstream for a physically fit adult and a healthy child is 1,500/µl and 3,000/ µl respectively. When these are reduced in number, it may not lead to a noticeable decrease of the net WBC in the body.
Causes of Low Lymphocytes
Acute lymphocytopenia (occurring for a short period during specific conditions and then resolving in most cases)
- Viral infections like hepatitis and influenza
- Extreme physical stress
- Radiation and/or chemotherapy
- Application o corticosteroids like prednisone
Chronic lymphocytopenia (occurring for an extended duration due to long-lasting illnesses)
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus, myasthenia gravis, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic infections like miliary tuberculosis and AIDS
- Certain cancers like lymphomas and leukemia
- The total lymphocyte count can be meager permanently in specific inherited immunodeficiency disorders like DiGeorge anomaly, severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and ataxia-telangiectasia.
Symptoms of Low Lymphocytes
Mild lymphocytopenia may not produce any visible signs. At times, the signs of the underlying causative condition may be noticeable to the naked eye. For instance, the patient may have:
- An enlarged spleen and enlarged lymph nodes referring to the probability of an HIV or cancer
- A runny nose, cough, and fever indicating a viral infection in the respiratory system
- A rash and painfully swollen joints pointing to the possibility of systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Small lymph nodes or tonsils, suggesting the presence of a hereditary disorder affecting the immune system
A drastic reduction in the total number of lymphocytes results in recurrence of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Moreover the symptoms associated with such infections vary widely and are dependent on the site of infection and also on the particular microorganism in question.
Diagnosis of Low Lymphocytes
Complete Blood Count Test
Mild lymphocytopenia is typically diagnosed by chance in the event of performing a CBC or complete blood count for other reasons. The test is also done on patients with severe or recurring infections and also in rare and exceptional instances when people suffer from diseases caused by the harmless organism. Flow cytometry is one such test that looks at different kinds of blood cells. This test is even more exhaustive when compared to a CBC test with differential.
Flow cytometry calculates the levels of several types of lymphocytes, namely, B cells, T cells, and NK cells. This test can detect the undiagnosed cause of lymphocytopenia. Low levels of T lymphocytes can be attributed to some underlying conditions. Other medical conditions can be held responsible for causing low levels of NK or B cells.
Other Blood Tests
When the total number of lymphocytes is reduced sharply and suddenly, medical practitioners typically perform a blood test for HIV and other types of infections and sometimes collect bone marrow sample for microscopic examination.
The total number of particular types of lymphocytes can also be measured. Reduced production of certain types can aid the doctors to diagnose specific types of diseases like AIDS or specific inherited immunodeficiency disorders.
Low Lymphocytes Risk Factors
There are three kinds of lymphocytes:
- B lymphocytes or B cells
- T lymphocytes or T cells
- Natural killer cells or NK cells
All the three varieties of lymphocytes play many vital functions in the human immune system. Too few B lymphocytes can decrease the total number of antibody-producing plasma cells, which in turn makes a person more susceptible to bacterial infections. People having abnormally less number of NK cells or too few T lymphocytes have issues managing certain infections like viral, parasitic, and fungal infections. Severe deficiencies in lymphocyte production can potentially lead to uncontrollable manifestations of the disease that can be fatal.
Low Lymphocytes Complications
- Inflammation plays a significant pathophysiological function in the whole continuum of the atherosclerotic process. Its initiation, growth, and plaque destabilization eventually result in an acute coronary incident. Furthermore, as soon as the clinical event has happened, inflammation also impacts the remodeling process of the left ventricle. Under the very same paradigm, there is proof that lymphocytes play a significant role in modulating the inflammatory response during the entire atherosclerotic process.
- Low lymphocyte count or LLC is a standard finding at the time of systemic inflammatory response which is substantiated by animal and clinical studies, and further indicating that LLC does play a putative function in accelerated atherosclerosis. For instance, a recent study suggests that LLC is linked with worse outcomes for patients with cardiac failure, acute coronary syndromes, and ischemic heart diseases of chronic nature.
Further indirect or passive evidence vouches for the pathologic function of LLC associated with the fact that lymphopenia (due to decrease in T cells) typically occurs as part of the natural process of ageing and heightened incidence of cardiovascular incidents has been documented in such conditions when lymphopenia is common, such as recipients for renal transplants, HIV infection, nuclear disaster survivors, and autoimmune diseases.
Preventions of Low Lymphocytes
There are various lifestyle adjustments that can potentially help to prevent lymphocytopenia, and the most significant ones are discussed below.
- Getting enough sleep
Fatigue decreases lymphocyte levels and weakens the immune system in the human body. While most people require completing two sleeping cycles, some people like need only one, and a few calls for three. The duration of the sleeping cycle varies from one person to another.
- Reducing stress
Apart from fatigue, stress also weakens the human immune system. One can practice different stress management techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and walking.
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages can make the body’s immune system more susceptible to diseases. The definition of “drinking in moderation” depends on the country that issues regulatory guidelines for liquor consumption.
- Other Important Changes
Maintaining an ideal weight
Practicing good hygiene
Treatment is dependent on the causative condition. Drug-induced lymphocytopenia starts to resolve as soon as the person ceases consuming the medication. If the Low Lymphocytes is associated with AIDS, combination therapy accompanied by a minimum of three antiviral drugs of separate classes can boost the total number of T cells and extend their survival.
Gamma globulin, i.e., a substance enriched with antibodies may be received by the patients with abnormally less number of B cells to prevent those antibody-deficient people from infections.
Stem cell transplantation may prove to be beneficial for people with an inherited immunodeficiency disorder. In the occurrence of any infection, a specific antifungal, antibiotic, or anti-parasitic drug is given
When to see the doctor?
One should get in touch of a hematologist as early as possible if one or more of the aforementioned symptoms begin to appear.