Red cells, white blood cells and platelets are the three types of blood cells in the body. When the level of one or more types of blood cells is below normal, it is considered a low blood count. Various types of conditions can lead to low blood counts. Confirming a diagnosis of the medical condition that is causing low blood counts is essential. According to the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center, one of the most common causes of low counts is chemotherapy to treat cancer. Rush University Medical Center says that, in addition to chemotherapy, low blood counts can be caused by anemia, which results in low red blood cells. Platelets may be low due to an enlarged spleen.Symptoms of low blood counts may include infection, bleeding and fatigue. There are various way to improve low blood counts depending on what type of cell is involved.
Determine what type of cells are low. Have blood drawn and a complete blood count (CBC) done. This will diagnose what type of cells are low and allow appropriate treatment to start.
Take medications. Erythropoietin is used to treat people who have low red blood cell counts by increasing cell production gradually. Filgrastim or pegfilgrastim can be taken to improve white blood cell counts if they are low. Both are approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
Undergo a transfusion. Both platelets and red blood cells can be transfused into a patient to treat low blood counts. Blood for transfusions can come from a blood bank or a patient can donate his own blood prior to a medical procedure to be used later when the counts become low.
Consider switching to a different type of chemotherapy or stopping treatment, if that is the cause of the reduced blood counts. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment may need to be temporarily stopped, which may give blood counts a chance to improve.
Tips & Warnings
- Eat a healthy diet. Diets high in iron-rich food, such as red meat, may help red blood cell production. Iron supplements may also be recommended to improve red blood cell production.
- If a person is undergoing chemotherapy, careful monitoring of the blood is important to spot low blood counts before they become severe or life threatening.
- Take certain precautions if counts are low. Prevent injuries, which may cause bleeding if platelet levels are low. To avoid infection if white blood cells are low, wash hands often and avoid being around people who are ill. Although this will not improve low blood counts, it may help you cope until counts improve.
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