Lymphopenia (Lymphocytopenia)

Written by Dr. Mary

Lymphopenia Definition

Lymphopenia or lymphocytopenia is a condition that involves a decrease in the level of serum lymphocytes. The lymphocytes are essential in the part of immunity or in protecting the body from infections. Many conditions are associated with lymphopenia. Others who are suffering from this condition are asymptomatic or do not present any signs or symptoms.


The lymphocytes are essential in the body for it usually constitute about 20% to 40% of the white blood cells in our serum. Normal level of lymphocyte is above 1,500 cells per microliter in adults, while for children the level is about 3,000 cells per microliter. Below these levels, depending on the corresponding age group, shall be considered lymphopenia. There should also be a significant decrease in the level before it is considered lymphopenia.

There are three classifications of lymphopenia:

  1. T lymphocytopenia. Specifically the T lymphocytes are affected which is primarily caused by HIV or AIDS.
  2. B lymphocytopenia. This is basically caused by some sort of immunodeficiency.
  3. NK lymphocytopenia. Few numbers of the natural killer cells are noted. This is noted as the rarest form of lymphopenia.

Lymphopenia Symptoms

Those affected of the condition may present no symptoms at all or is considered asymptomatic. This condition is fairly identified by any random blood test. A drastic decrease in the level of lymphocytes is the best identifier for lymphopenia. The following are also some of the manifestations of lymphopenia:

  1. Immunocompromised.
  2. Repeated infections.

Lymphopenia Causes

The condition is caused primarily by an infection or a recent infection. It is also possible that the body is not capable of making or producing enough lymphocytes. There is also a possibility that a person’s lymph nodes trap the necessary amount of lymphocytes. The condition is also associated with the following factors:

  1. Intake of certain medications. Those who are taking immunosuppressant/s such as corticosteroids are affected of the condition.
  2. Underlying conditions. One who has HIV or AIDS are likely to suffer from this condition for they are to take a number of medications that can affect one’s immune system. Those who suffer from arthritis and iatrogenic conditions are also victims of lymphopenia.
  3. Malnutrition and stress. These can take effect by lowering one’s immune system.
  4. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This form of therapy shall suppress one’s immune system thus it affects the normal levels of the blood components. These agents can gravely compromise the immunity of the person. Radiation can also suppress the immune system, especially when high levels of radiation are applied.
  5. Malignancies. Those who suffer from bone marrow cancer such as leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease may suffer from lymphopenia.

Lymphopenia Diagnosis

The only way to identify presence of lymphopenia is through a blood examination. This shall assist in the diagnosis and verify the presence of the condition. When the lymphocyte level of an adult is below 1,500 cells per microliter, then one is positive of lymphopenia. When a child has a lymphocyte level of < 3,000 cells per microliter then it indicates lymphopenia to children. Collecting the patient’s medical history is also assistive in the completion of the diagnosis. This can also support for the cause of the condition.

Treatment for Lymphopenia

Treatment for lymphopenia is aimed to increase or attain the normal levels of lymphocytes. The treatment would also depend on the cause of the condition. The following are recommended or advised to people who are suffering from lymphopenia:

  1. Gamma globulin. This is a substance that is rich in antibodies which can assist in avoiding infections. Those who have low lymphocytes then can presumably attain the normal count of lymphocytes when they administer this.
  2. Bone marrow transplant. This is a very expensive form of treatment but is indeed effective especially to those who have problems with their bone marrow. This can alter the problem in immunodeficiency and also provide good or better prognosis to those with malignancies of the bone marrow.
  3. Treat the infection. When a person is known to be suffering from an infection, they should be provided with the congruent medications. Provide specific antibiotics, antiviral agents, antifungal drugs, and antiparasitic agents to directly aim the disease process that causes lymphopenia.

Prognosis

Those suffering from lymphopenia have a dependent prognosis. This condition can come and go; especially when a person is in treatment for cancer. Those who are taking in medications that are immunosuppressive are likely to recover easily from the condition when they stop taking the medications. But when it comes to patients who have chronic conditions such as HIV or AIDs, they may have this condition as a fluctuating condition. Those with terminal conditions are also expected to have poor prognosis as they may have chronic problems with their immune system.

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