Low white blood cell count (leukopenia)

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Low white blood cell count (leukopenia)

Question

What causes a low white blood cell count?

Wendy
Canada

Answer

Sometimes the cause of a low white blood cell count can't be determined (idiopathic). Known causes of a low white blood cell count (leukopenia) include:

  • Infections, such as viral infections and HIV
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus
  • Certain medications, especially those used in chemotherapy and some antibiotics
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow disease, such as leukemia or myelodysplastic syndromes

White blood cells help fight infection in your body. A normal white blood cell count ranges from 4,500 to 10,000 cells per microliter of blood. A mild decrease in white blood cells below 4,500 cells per microliter doesn't necessarily indicate a serious illness. However, a dangerously low white blood cell count — below 2,500 cells per microliter — increases the risk of serious infection.

Last Updated: 10/09/2006
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