Neutrophils are white blood cells.
Neutrophils are one of five types of cell belonging to the white blood cell family, all of which are called leucocytes.
- and basophils.
All leukocytes serve in our body’s immunological and inflammatory responses, protecting us from irritants and malignant invaders.
- About 40%-60% of all white blood cells are neutrophils.
- Neutrophils, along with eosinophils and basophils, constitute a group of white blood cells known as granulocytes.
- Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell and the most abundant type of granulocytes.
Neutrophils are phagocytic; they engulf and digest other microorganisms.
White Blood Cell differential:
Neutrophil concentration is determined with a white blood cell differential, often as a part of a complete blood count (CBC). A healthcare provider may order a complete blood count during a routine health check or if someone has symptoms or signs of an infection, including:
- Fever and shaking chills
- Rapid pulse
- Rapid breathing
- Nausea / vomiting
NEUTROPENIA (LOW NEUTROPHIL COUNT)
Neutropenia is potentially associated with life threatening infection. It is most significant when the total neutrophil count is less than 0.5 x 109/L, particularly when the neutropenia is due to impaired production (e.g. after chemotherapy). When the neutropenia is due to increased peripheral destruction or margination (e.g. with viral infection), it is less certain what constitutes a significant level. These patients rarely have problems with significant bacterial infection despite quite low neutrophil counts.
In routine clinical practice the most frequent cause of a low neutrophil count is overt or occult viral infection, including viral hepatitis. Acute changes are often noted within one to two days of infection and may persist for several weeks. The neutrophil count seldom decreases enough to pose a risk of infection.
A low neutrophil count is often discovered in some people as an incidental finding in the CBC ('Complete Blood Count') result. The patient is generally asymptomatic and the clinical examination is unremarkable. The count is usually stable on follow-up. This is likely to be idiopathic although in some cases a neutropenia may be associated with splenomegaly or an autoimmune disease such as lupus.
Neutropenia can be classified as:
|Mild||1.0 – 2.0 × 109/L|
|Moderate||0.5 – 1.0 × 109/L|
|Severe||< 0.5 × 109/L|
Drugs causing neutropenia:
Although relatively rare, drug therapy may cause an acquired neutropenia in some people. The drugs most likely to be associated with moderate neutropenia are chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs, antithyroid medications, antibiotics, antirheumatics, antipsychotics and anticonvulsants.
Many drugs may cause a chronic mild neutropenia e.g. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, valproic acid.
If you are following a wholefoods, plant-based (i.e. vegan) diet your white blood cell count (including Neutrophils and Monocytes) might be on a lower level naturally. This is in general not a concern. There is research studies supporting the hypothesis that people on a vegan diet have overall lower WBC counts and for those individuals the optimal reference range should be adjusted downwards [L, L, L, L].
An increased percentage of neutrophils, called neutrophilia, may result from:
- an inflammatory disorder (rheumatoid arthritis, gout),
- from infection (acute or chronic),
- from certain cancers (myelocytic leukemia),
- or from stressors (eclampsia in pregnant women, injury, burns).
High neutrophil count is not, in itself, a symptom-causing problem. Evaluation of neutrophils, therefore, is done to determine the condition or disorder causing the number of neutrophils to increase.
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