Neutropenia and Warfarin

By: Alere Staff

Having a lower white blood cell count can make you at a higher risk for developing infections. This is because white blood cells help your body defend against infection. There are five major groups of white blood cells and one of these is neutrophil. Neutrophils fight off bacteria and fungi by surrounding and ingesting them. Fifty to seventy percent of circulating white blood cells in the human blood system are neutrophils. When your body has a lower than normal number of neutrophils, you may have a blood condition known as neutropenia.

Symptoms and Causes

While few people know what neutropenia is, even less may know the signs or causes. Patients with neutropenia experience infections and fevers more often, have recurrent bacterial skin or throat infections and can experience persistent body aches. However, the only way to know if you have neutropenia is through a blood test.1

Causes of neutropenia can vary. Sometimes it is caused by the lack of neutrophil production in the bone marrow as a result of severe infections, deficiencies, radiation therapy, certain types of medications including chemotherapy and exposure to certain toxins.1 Also, neutropenia can occur when the body uses up neutrophils too quickly as when patients undergo certain drug treatments, are sick or have  autoimmune disorders such as lupus, Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis.1 Other causes could be a hereditary disease like Kostmann’s syndrome.1

Treatment

Treatment for neutropenia ranges from discontinuation of certain medicines that reduce white blood cell count to bone marrow transplant.1 If you take warfarin and suffer from neutropenia, the discontinuation or addition of certain medications (corticosteroids) may change the way your warfarin works. It is recommended physicians request additional blood monitoring of your warfarin when medications are added or removed.2

Lifestyle recommendations for patients with neutropenia include many of the same guidelines as those taking warfarin such as avoiding razor blades for shaving, the use of closed toe shoes, using softer toothbrush bristles, avoid eating foods that may cause constipation. Additionally, all cuts and scratches should be reported to ensure proper care follows to avoid an infection.

 

References:

1. Nordqvist, C. 2014. What is Neutropenia? What Causes Neutropenia: Retrieved October 20, 2014 from web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265373.php

2. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. (October 2011). Medication Guide for Coumadin Tablets and Coumadin for Injection [Package Insert]. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.