How to Test for Leukopenia: Low White Blood Cell Count
Leukopenia occurs when a person has an abnormally low number of white blood cells. Your white blood cells are responsible for a variety of functions in the body, but their most prominent function involves supporting the body’s immune system. When white blood cells are low, it can cause many different adverse side effects, including an increased risk of illness and infection. This article will share more about leukopenia and how to test for it.
What causes Low White Blood Cell Count
People may have leukopenia for many reasons, including certain medications, infections, disease, and toxin exposure.
Sometimes, leukopenia occurs as a side effect of medications. Common medications that can result in leukopenia include:
- Clozapine: an antipsychotic medication
- Sodium valproate and lamotrigine: antiepileptic medications
- Immunosuppressive drugs: sirolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, tacrolimus, and cyclosporine
If you require prescription medications that may cause your white blood cell counts to drop, you must take certain precautions to avoid infection, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding individuals who are sick.
Infection and disease
Certain infections and diseases can cause leukopenia. Viral infections commonly cause leukopenia because they can disrupt the bone marrow’s production of blood cells.
Other common diseases that may cause leukopenia include:
- Bone marrow disorders like aplastic anemia and multiple myeloma
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Infections such as bacterial and viral infections
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, may result in leukopenia.
Certain toxins like chemotherapy drugs and radiation can damage the bone marrow, leading to leukopenia. White blood cells created inside bone marrow can become damaged, leading to abnormalities in white blood cell production and lower-than-average levels.
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What are the Symptoms of a Low White Blood Cell Count?
Symptoms of low white blood cell count include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Frequent infections
- Mouth sores and sore throat
- Painful urination
Diagnosis of Leukopenia
If you are concerned about your low white blood cell levels, your doctor can administer a complete blood count test (CBC). This test involves taking a small blood sample and sending it to a lab. You will then find out if you have healthy white and red blood cell levels, which helps your doctor identify whether you have leukopenia and what may be causing it.
A more specific blood test for leukopenia is a differential white blood cell count. This blood test looks at the percentages of each type of white blood cell (up to 8 different types). By evaluating your levels of the different kinds of white blood cells, your doctor can determine your condition and help chart a path to recovery.
Suppose your doctor finds that you have leukopenia and are concerned that it is related to a problem with your body’s ability to make white blood cells. In that case, they may order a bone marrow biopsy which involves taking a bone marrow sample and evaluating it in a lab.
Treating leukopenia involves isolating the underlying cause. Once your doctor has determined the cause of your low white blood cell count, they will move forward with the best treatment option. If an infection causes leukopenia, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medications that may help. If your leukopenia is related to a cancer diagnosis and you’re currently on a chemotherapy regimen, your doctor may recommend delaying chemotherapy until your white blood cell count increases.
Avoiding infections when your white blood cell count is low is crucial since your body cannot effectively defend against them in its weakened state. Take steps to stay healthy and keep your immune system high by eating a healthy diet, avoiding other people who may have a sickness, and boosting the immune system with an immunity boost IV.
Leukopenia is a term used to describe a low white blood cell count. The white blood cells serve an essential function in the body, and low levels can lead to adverse side effects. There are various reasons why a person may experience low white blood cell counts or leukopenia. Your doctor will likely use a blood test to diagnose leukopenia. If you have leukopenia, it is essential to discover the underlying cause to proceed with treatment promptly.
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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?
It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.
How accurate are lab tests?
Overall, lab tests are generally considered to be accurate and reliable, but there is always a chance of error and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to interpret the results.
How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?
A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
What does a routine blood test cover?
A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.
What does routine lab work cover?
Routine lab work typically includes a blood test, which is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. In addition to a blood test, routine lab work may also include other tests, such as urine and stool tests, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions related to the kidneys, liver, and digestive system.
Can a blood test identify cancer?
In some cases, cancer can be detected with a blood test. However, not all cancers can be detected with a blood test, and some blood tests can produce false-positive or false-negative results.
Can a blood test find other particular issues like problems with the heart, liver, or kidneys?
Yes, a blood test can sometimes be used to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems. Blood tests can also be used to measure the levels of certain substances in your blood, such as cholesterol and glucose, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, a blood test can check your blood count, which can provide information about the health of your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. However, it is important to note that a blood test is not always able to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems, and other tests, such as imaging scans or biopsies, may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
What distinguishes a diagnostic test from a screening test?
A screening test is a type of test that is used to identify people who may be at increased risk of a particular condition, such as cancer or heart disease. In contrast, a diagnostic test is a type of test that is used to confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis. So, the main difference between a screening test and a diagnostic test is the purpose for which the test is being performed.
Why do lab tests occasionally need to be repeated?
One common reason is that the initial test results were inconclusive or unclear, and repeating the test can help provide more accurate results. Lab tests may also be repeated if the initial results were abnormal and more information is needed to diagnose or monitor a condition. In addition, some lab tests are designed to be repeated on a regular basis, such as to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment or to check for any changes in a person's health over time. Finally, lab tests may be repeated if the initial test was performed incorrectly, or if there was some other problem with the sample that was collected.
Does having normal lab test results indicate I shouldn't worry about anything?
Having normal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have nothing to worry about. Additionally, lab tests are not always able to detect all health conditions, and some conditions may not produce abnormal test results until they have progressed to a more advanced stage.
What should I do after I have my lab test results?
After you have your lab test results, it is always best to discuss them with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will be able to interpret the results in the context of your overall health and medical history, and they will be able to recommend any necessary follow-up tests or treatments.
What is the cost of a lab test?
In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.
How is a blood sample for a lab test collected?
A blood sample for a lab test is typically collected through a process called venipuncture. This involves using a needle and syringe to draw blood from a vein, typically in the arm. The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and a tourniquet is placed around the upper arm to help make the veins more visible. The healthcare provider performing the venipuncture will then insert the needle into a vein and collect the required amount of blood. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Should I do anything to prepare for lab tests?
It is generally a good idea to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine what, if any, preparations are necessary for your lab tests. In general, it is a good idea to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. It is also a good idea to bring a list of all medications you are currently taking to your lab appointment.
Why is it necessary to fast before some tests?
Fasting before certain lab tests is often necessary because certain substances in the blood, such as glucose and certain fats, can affect the results of the test. By fasting, you are allowing your body to metabolize these substances, which can provide more accurate test results. Additionally, some tests require that you fast in order to properly prepare your body for the test.
Will a cup of coffee before my lab test mess with the results?
Whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test will depend on the specific test that you are undergoing and any instructions provided by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure about whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test, it is always best to ask your healthcare provider for advice.
Can my lab test get affected by diet or medications?
Yes, your diet and medications can affect the results of your lab tests.
What do the lab test results mean?
The specific meaning of your lab test results will depend on the specific test that was performed and the reference range provided by the laboratory. The reference range is the range of values that is considered normal for a healthy person, and it is used to interpret the results of your lab test. If your test results fall within the reference range, it generally means that there is nothing unusual or concerning about your test results. However, if your test results are outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Where are the reference (normal) ranges for lab tests?
The reference ranges for lab tests, also known as normal ranges, are determined by the laboratory that performs the test. These ranges are based on a large number of test results from healthy individuals, and they are used to interpret the results of your lab test. The reference range for each test is typically provided on the laboratory report along with your test results.
What if my lab test result is outside the reference range?
If your lab test result is outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Additionally, the reference range is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.
How can I improve my lab test results?
There are several steps you can take to improve your lab test results. First, it is important to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider when preparing for a lab test, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve your lab test results. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it is important to manage it properly and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment.
Does having abnormal lab test results indicate that I have a health issue?
Having abnormal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have a health issue. There are many factors that can affect the accuracy of lab test results, such as your diet, medications, and other medical conditions. Additionally, the reference range used to interpret your test results is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.