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Lymphocytopenia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Monday, May 07, 2018 by

Lymphocytopenia refers to a condition where a patient has a very low level of lymphocytes in their blood.

Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. These cells make up about 15 to 40 percent of all the white blood cells in the bloodstream. Lymphocytes protect the body from infections that may be caused by fungi or viruses. Additionally, these cells organize the activities of other cells in the immune system. Lymphocytes can help fight cancer and they can turn into cells that produce antibodies to counteract the effect of foreign substances in the blood.

Lymphocytopenia occurs due to abnormalities in how lymphocytes are produced or travel to the bloodstream. The loss or destruction of lymphocytes may also cause lymphocytopenia.

Lymphocytopenia can be a sign of a patient’s condition, an underlying illness, or another factor.

Known symptoms and risk factors for lymphocytopenia

Not all patients with lymphocytopenia may experience symptoms. However, some individuals may experience signs such as:

  • Cough
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Painful joints
  • Runny nose
  • Skin rash
  • Small tonsils or lymph nodes
  • Weight loss

Risk factors for lymphocytopenia may include:

  • Being malnourished
  • Being on medications that can affect lymphocyte count
  • Having an underlying condition that may cause lymphocytopenia
  • Undergoing recent infection or surgery

Body systems harmed by lymphocytopenia

Lymphocytopenia can indicate that a patient has acute bacteremia or sepsis.

  • Acute bacteremia – This refers to a bacterial presence in the blood that could cause sepsis.
  • Sepsis – Sepsis is a dangerous infection that can cause systemic inflammation.

Both conditions require urgent medical attention.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent lymphocytopenia

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent lymphocytopenia and increase lymphocytes:

  • Beta-carotene – Beta-carotene can also help increase lymphocyte levels. Sources include carrots, butternut squash, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
  • Healthy fats – Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats and they can help boost your lymphocyte count. Sources include albacore tuna, avocado, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, herring, sardines, walnuts, and white fish.
  • Lean protein – When you don’t consume enough protein your body may have a hard time producing white blood cells. Boost lymphocyte production by eating protein-rich foods like grass-fed meat (e.g. beef), legumes, organic eggs, seafood, and wild-caught fish.
  • Selenium – Selenium can boost the body’s ability to produce more white blood cells. Sources include broccoli, cod, oats, salmon, shiitake mushrooms, and tuna.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C can help increase the production of white blood cells like lymphocytes. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers, celery, kale, oranges, parsley, raspberries, and tomatoes.
  • Vitamin D – Sources include mackerel, organic eggs, raw milk, sardines, tuna, and wild-caught salmon.
  • Vitamin E – Vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, asparagus, collard greens, kale, olives, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
  • Zinc – Zinc is important when it comes to lymphocyte production. Sources include asparagus, collard greens, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.

Treatments, management plans for lymphocytopenia

Treatment for lymphocytopenia often depends on the cause. If a patient has an underlying condition that is causing lymphocytopenia, treating it will resolve the former. In some cases, therapy may be required to prevent infections or other complications that can occur because of a weakened immune system.

If a patient’s lymphocyte levels are low because of drug therapy, a healthcare professional can suggest a different drug. Drug-related lymphocytopenia usually resolves itself once an individual stops taking the drug.

If lymphocytopenia is caused by other factors, a healthcare professional may prescribe the following medications:

  • Antiretroviral combination therapy – For HIV.
  • Bone marrow stem cell transplant – A possible treatment for some types of cancer.
  • Gamma globulin – Can help prevent infections that may occur because of B-cell lymphocytopenia.
  • Other antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitic drugs, or antiviral agents – Used to treat specific infections.

Where to learn more


Lymphocytopenia refers to a condition where a patient has a very low level of lymphocytes in their blood. Symptoms include cough, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, and painful joints.

Lymphocytopenia can indicate that a patient has acute bacteremia or sepsis.


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