MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Low White Blood Cell Count

(Neutropenia; Lymphopenia)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details

What is a low white blood cell count?

A low white blood cell count is an unusually low number of one or more kinds of white blood cells.

  • A low white blood cell count puts you at increased risk of infection

  • Some infections can be life-threatening

  • A low white blood cell count can be a side effect of drugs, particularly chemotherapy drugs

  • Sometimes a low white blood cell count is caused by an infection or cancer

  • Doctors may do blood tests and bone marrow tests to see why your white blood cell count is low

  • Doctors may give you medicine to increase your white blood cells and antibiotics if you have a fever or other signs of infection

What causes a low white blood cell count?

There are many causes of a low white blood cell count:

What are the symptoms of a low white blood cell count?

A low white blood cell count has no specific symptoms. You get symptoms because you develop frequent infections. Sometimes the infections are unusual ones that most people don't get.

Symptoms of infections can start suddenly or slowly and can include:

How can doctors tell if my white blood cell count is low?

Doctors can tell you have a low white blood cell count by doing a routine complete blood count (CBC). If you're getting treatments or have a disease that can lower your white blood cell count, doctors check your CBC often.

Sometimes, the cause is obvious, such as if you’re getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer.

If the cause isn't clear, doctors may do:

  • Blood, urine, and imaging tests looking for infection

  • Bone marrow biopsy (removing some bone marrow with a needle to do tests on it)

How do doctors treat a low white blood cell count?

Doctors treat a low white blood cell count using:

  • Antibiotics to treat any infections

  • Medicines to push your body to make more white blood cells

  • Treatment for any diseases that may be causing the count to be low

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Test your knowledge
Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a feeling of extreme sadness and related psychologic disturbances after delivery of a baby. Although it is common to feel sad or miserable within 3 days of delivery (the baby blues), these feelings usually go away within 2 weeks. Postpartum depression is a more serious mood change. Women in which of the following groups are at increased risk for this condition?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP