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Leukopenia, a decrease in the total number of white blood cells in the body, is often the result of another disease or treatment such as chemotherapy, but it can also have symptoms of its own. Mild cases typically cause no issues and often go unnoticed, but as the number of white cells continues to decline, patients may begin to have general feelings of malaise such as fatigue and weakness, dizziness, or loss of appetite. As the condition worsens, the symptoms of leukopenia typically become more noticeable, severe, and dangerous. Without enough white cells to fight them, infections tend to set in as well as other problems like anemia, menorrhagia, and stomatitis.
The first symptoms of leukopenia are typically quite mild and fairly non-specific. Very early on, there are frequently no signs of a problem at all. Once the condition progresses, patients might feel tired and weak, although they may also have trouble sleeping. They can become dizzy or lightheaded or have headaches. Some people develop a low-grade fever with no obvious cause.
A further decline in white blood cells can start to cause more significant problems. One of the most common symptoms of leukopenia is the onset of unusual or recurrent infections. The mouth is often the place where this is first noticed, with canker sores, gingivitis, and periodontitis all occurring frequently. Lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia are also common, as are urinary tract infections. In rare cases, abscesses in the liver caused by bacterial infections can develop.
In addition to frequent infections, a number of other issues can be symptoms of leukopenia, too. Some patients have a drop in red blood cells or hemoglobin and develop anemia. Others may develop thrombocytopenia, a condition where the number of platelets in the blood drops abnormally low. Women may experience extremely heavy periods with more bleeding than they are used to -- a condition called menorrhagia. They may also have metrorrhagia, which is abnormal bleeding from the uterus unrelated to menstruation; this is typically an indication of a uterine infection.
Inflammation of mucous membranes can be another of the symptoms of leukopenia. This frequently affects the lining of the mouth, leading to irritation on the gums, tongue, or cheeks. It can also happen in the stomach, a condition called stomatitis.
Leukopenia can also affect a person’s mental state. Some patients become irritable and short-tempered. They may also show signs of neurasthenia, a condition characterized by nervous exhaustion.