What is Lymphocytopenia?

Medically Reviewed by Jonathan E. Kaplan, MD on February 12, 2024
3 min read

Lymphocytopenia is a condition in which your blood does not have a sufficient amount of white blood cells. Lymphocytes are cells of the immune system that protect your body from infections. A deficiency of these cells increases your risk of getting infections. 

Lymphocytopenia can be long-term or short-term, depending on its cause. Mild cases may go away without treatment. Serious cases require treatments and medicines. 

You may have lymphocytopenia if: 

  • Your body is not producing enough lymphocytes 
  • The body is producing enough lymphocytes, but they are being destroyed 
  • The lymphocytes get trapped in the spleen or lymph nodes.

Lymphocytopenia could be a by-product of other diseases. These conditions may be inherited or acquired. 

Inherited conditions. In this case, you inherited the gene causing the disease from your parents. Some inherited diseases that can cause lymphocytopenia are ataxia-telangiectasia, DiGeorge anomaly (22q11.2 deletion syndrome), and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. However, inherited conditions are rare. 

Acquired conditions. These conditions are not inherited from your parents. You develop them during your lifetime. An acquired condition that results in lymphocytopnia is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Some other acquired causes include steroid therapy, blood cancer, chemotherapy, or autoimmune disorders. 

What Are the Symptoms of ‌Lymphocytopenia?

Usually, there are no lymphocytopenia symptoms. Instead, your condition will only be discovered if you get tested or diagnosed for another condition. 

Lymphocytopenia is diagnosed based on your test results, a physical exam, and your medical history. Since the disease itself does not have any symptoms, your doctor will perform blood tests for other conditions, such as AIDS.

If you have any unusual infections or infections that do not go away for a long time, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to determine the cause of these infections. You may also have to see an immunologist specializing in immune disorders, or a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood diseases. 

Your lymphocytopenia treatment will depend on how severe your condition is and the underlying condition that is causing it. Mild lymphocytopenia often needs no treatment.

Your doctor will treat infections you may have, as a low lymphocyte count makes it difficult for your body to fight infections. 

If you have a blood disease or inherited disease, your doctor will talk to you about other treatment options. Research is being done to find methods for increasing lymphocyte count in people with lymphocytopenia that results from a severe underlying disease. One proposed method is blood and marrow stem cell transplant. The procedure may cure or treat the conditions causing a decreased lymphocyte count. 

You are at risk of getting lymphocytopenia if you have a condition that leads to a low lymphocyte count. Some of these conditions are: 

If you are getting chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment, you can also be at higher risk of lymphocytopenia. 

If your lymphocytopenia is due to an inherited disease, you cannot prevent it. Instead, you can control it by taking the medicines prescribed by your doctor. 

Like most other diseases, an early diagnosis can control lymphocytopenia. Doctors in the U.S. screen newborns for conditions that may cause lymphocytopenia. This makes an early diagnosis possible to prevent any serious problems in the future. 

If you have repeated or long-lasting infections, talk to your doctor to get immediate help.