What Causes A Low Blood Count?

November 12, 2012

What Causes A Low Blood Count?

When you feel sick with something your doctor cannot immediately diagnose, you often are required to get a blood test called a complete blood count or CBC. By checking the levels of blood cells and chemicals, your doctor can help diagnose your particular condition. A low blood count means that something in your blood is at abnormally low levels, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin or platelets.

There are many causes of a low blood count which range the spectrum of medical severity from a simple infection to cancer. Your doctor will diagnose your condition based on your symptoms, your medical history and your low blood cell count. If you need to start certain medications like chemotherapy drugs, then you will need to get regular CBC tests to check for low blood count.

White Blood Cells

White blood cells are like the police squad of the bloodstream. They destroy any cells that they cannot identify, such as bacteria and viruses. If you have low amounts of white blood cells, which means your bone marrow is not making enough in order to keep you healthy or fight the illness you are currently suffering from. A normal white blood cell count is from 4,000 to 10,000 per microliter of blood. Any number below 4,000 is cause for alarm.

There are many causes for low blood count of white cells. This may lead to more blood tests to help eliminate potentially lethal conditions. Causes for low white blood cell count include:

  • Hyperthyroidism or underactive thyroid

  • Aplastic anemia, also called bone marrow failure

  • Leukemia


  • Any strain of influenza

  • Epstein-Barr virus

  • Hepatitis

  • The common cold

  • Lupus

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Malnutrition which causes vitamin deficiencies that help bone marrow function properly.

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells are the draft horses of the bloodstream. They are responsible for carrying oxygen all throughout the body. Symptoms of a low red cell count include feeling tired all of the time and feeling dizzy. There are about as many causes for a low blood count or red blood cells as there are for white blood cells. Common causes include:

  • Dietary iron deficiency

  • Internal organ blood vessel rupture

  • Peptic ulcer, which causes bleeding

  • Liver damage

  • External or internal hemorrhoids

  • Sickle cell anemia

  • Tumors both benign and malignant

  • Aplastic anemia

  • Poisoning

  • Side effect of radiation therapy

  • Side effect of some medications like chemotherapy drugs.

Low Platelet Count

Platelets help your wounds to stop bleeding by forming clots. There are normally far more platelets in your blood than white blood cells. Normal counts of platelets are from 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood. Anything below 150,000 will worry your doctors, unless you have planning to get pregnant. Many pregnant women experience low platelet counts during pregnancy.

Other causes include:

  • Problems of the spleen

  • A bacterial infection

  • An autoimmune disorder like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

  • Side effects from certain medications including quinine and heparin.


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