Pancytopenia is a condition in which a patient has low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. There are a number of things which can cause the condition, making determination of cause an important part of the treatment process. This condition can be diagnosed with a blood test in which levels of blood components can be counted, but additional testing will be needed to find out why the patient has low blood counts.
Commonly, pancytopenia is caused by diseases of the bone marrow which interfere with the production of new blood cells, such as leukemia, damage to the bone marrow caused by radiation exposure, and so forth. It can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, or by conditions such as HIV. Certain medications have also been linked with presentations of pancytopenia, and drugs which carry a known risk of causing this condition are prescribed with care for this reason.
If a patient has this condition, a bone marrow biopsy may be done to learn more about what is causing the problem. The patient is also interviewed to collect historical information which may be useful or important to treatment. Patients with ongoing medical problems known to cause low blood counts may be able to forgo biopsy, with the doctor focusing on continuing to address the patient's medical problem, under the assumption that treating the problem will also resolve the problem.
Patients with pancytopenia are at risk of complications and health problems because of their low blood counts. They can be vulnerable to things like infection, and they may feel fatigued, experience weakness, and feel generally unwell. The symptoms vary from patient to patient, and can be complicated by whatever is causing the problem. During treatment, the patient may be advised to rest and to avoid situations in which exposure to microbes is likely, as the patient's vulnerability to infection can be an issue.
Pancytopenia treatment involves determining the cause and addressing it. Hopefully, management or resolution of the cause will allow the blood counts to go back up, treating the low blood counts. In the case of low blood counts caused by chronic illnesses, more careful monitoring and management may be recommended in the future to prevent recurrences. Patients can also have their medications adjusted if their drugs are suspected of being behind the pancytopenia.
After a bout of this condition, a patient may be asked to take periodic blood tests to confirm that the levels of platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells are still within normal range.