Platelets are bone marrow cells released into the blood. When they stick together, they form blood clots that help stop the bleeding when you have a cut or wound. A low white blood cell count, leukopenia, means disease-fighting cells have decreased circulating in your blood. Low white blood cell count in adults is generally defined as fewer than 3,500 white blood cells per microliter of blood; in children, it varies with age and gender.
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Causes of Low White Blood Cells
A low white blood cell count usually is caused by viral infections, congenital disorders, cancer or other diseases that damage bone marrow; drugs that destroy white blood cells or damage bone marrow; allergies, anaemia, HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, lupus, parasitic diseases, radiation therapy, Rheumatoid arthritis and vitamin deficiencies.
Causes of Low Platelets (Thrombocytopenia)
Thrombocytopenia generally is caused by a reduced production of platelets produced in the bone marrow. Viral infections, e-Coli infections and HIV may suppress platelet production. Heavy alcohol consumption also can impair the manufacturing of platelets. Any condition that causes the body to use or destroy more platelets than are produced can also lead to low platelet count. Other causes are pregnancy, the formation of anti-viral antibodies that attack platelets, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or blood poisoning from severe bacterial infections. This is not a comprehensive list of the causes of low platelet production, but it should be noted that some cases of low platelets can be life-threatening, particularly with severe clotting.
A CBC (complete blood count) test is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anaemia, infection and leukaemia. This test measures red blood cells, white blood cells, haemoglobin (which is used to carry oxygenated protein to red blood cells), hematocrit (the proportion of red blood cells to fluid, or plasma) and platelet count. Abnormal increases or decreases in cell counts as revealed in a complete blood count may indicate there is an underlying medical condition that calls for further testing. These tests are administered in “rule out” fashion, meaning the focus is on ruling out certain diagnoses to determine the specific one causing the problem.
There is no way to “prevent” or cure low platelet or low red blood cell count when white blood cell count is elevated. The focus is to get the counts under control again.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary, but when it is needed, your doctor may recommend avoiding drugs such as aspirin, which sometimes impairs platelet function; avoiding excessive alcohol intake and contact sports, which heightens the risk of injury and bleeding. Medications to block antibodies that attack platelets also may be administered. In more severe cases, surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy), kidney dialysis, blood transfusions, platelet concentrates and plasma exchange is used to treat these disorders.
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