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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What is neutropenia?

Neutropenia is a condition that causes you to have a low number of neutrophils in your blood. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow. They help your body fight infection and bacteria.

What increases my risk for neutropenia?

  • Family history or inherited genes
  • Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Certain medicines, such as penicillin or aspirin
  • Infections, such as hepatitis A or B, RSV, influenza A or B, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV
  • Autoimmune disorders, including hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
  • Bone marrow diseases, including aplastic anemia and acute leukemia
  • Lack of certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, folate, and copper

What are the signs and symptoms of neutropenia?

You may have no signs or symptoms, or you may have any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Bruises, splotchy red spots, or sores on your skin
  • Mouth sores
  • A sinus infection
  • Anal or rectal sores
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Cough or wheezing

How is neutropenia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Tell him or her about the medicines or supplements you take and any health conditions you may have. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests will show the level of white blood cells in your body. This will tell healthcare providers if you have an infection and if your neutropenia is moderate or severe.
  • Urine tests will show if you have an infection of your bladder or kidneys.
  • A CT may show an infection or other problems causing your symptoms. You may be given contrast liquid to help the infection or other problem show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is neutropenia treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your neutropenia. Your healthcare provider will treat any infections you have. You may also need to change the foods you eat to make sure you get the right nutrition. You may need to stop taking medicines that can cause neutropenia. You may also receive growth factor to help stimulate your bone marrow to make more neutrophils.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I prevent an infection?

  • Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food, and after you use the bathroom.
  • Bathe daily. If you shave, use an electric razor to prevent nicks in your skin.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush , and brush your teeth gently 2 times each day. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to gently floss daily.
  • Avoid crowds and anyone who may be sick. Avoid contact with animal saliva, urine, or feces. Have someone clean your cat's litter box or fish tank, or pick up after your dog.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Cook meats and eggs thoroughly.
  • Use stool softeners if you are constipated. Do not use suppositories or enemas. Constipation, suppositories, and enemas can cause a tear in your rectum. This allows germs to get in and can increase your risk for infection.
  • Ask about vaccines. The flu or pneumonia vaccines may help prevent infection and illness. The flu vaccine is usually given every year in the fall. The pneumonia vaccine is usually given every 5 years.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) for more than 1 hour.
  • You have a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher one time.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have fever or chills.
  • You have a new cough.
  • You have a sore throat or a new mouth sore.
  • You have redness or swelling any place on your body.
  • You have pain in your abdomen or rectum.
  • You have burning or pain when you urinate.
  • You have diarrhea.
  • You are more tired or forgetful than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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