White blood cells, known as neutrophils, act as the body’s primary defense against infection. Neutrophils normally develop into bone marrow and then release into the bloodstream.
In agranulocytosis, the production of neutrophils in the bone marrow is reduced or even stopped. Because of this, the blood contains too little neutrophils, so the body’s resistance to infection is weakened.
Most cases of this disease are mild. It is often caused by some medication that the patient takes for some other disorder. In several cases, the disease occurs after an infection, and the exact cause is unknown.
The characteristic symptom of this disease is susceptibility to infection. Mouth and throat are particularly susceptible to infections, so ulcers frequently occur on them.
In a small percentage of patients infections (such as pneumonia) progress very quickly and can be very severe, even deadly. However, such cases are extremely rare, as statistical data show that agranulocytosis alone occurs only in one out of 100,000 individuals.
What to do?
If you have been suffering from a number of minor infections – or even the common flu – for some time, please contact your doctor, especially if you are taking some medicines. It is known that some drugs damage the bone marrow, so the doctor will be well aware of this possibility.
After examination, your doctor will refer you to your blood tests. If the finding is pointing to agranulocytosis, a bone marrow pattern should also be examined for a definite diagnosis.
Some cases are so mild that treatment is unnecessary, but it is necessary to stop taking the drug that causes the disease. After that, the patient will recover. An eventual infection is treated with antibiotics. In rare cases when the cause of the disease can not be detected or when the condition, after the patients stops using the drug which is thought to cause the disease, does not improve, he will recieve the medicines to strengthen the bone marrow tissue. Sometimes the disease is periodically reoccurring in mild condition, but most patients are completely healed and have no long-term problems.