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Causes of Lymphopenia

Delve into the causes of lymphopenia, examining the diverse factors that contribute to decreased lymphocyte counts in the body.

  • 21 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Lymphopenia or lymphocytopenia is a condition characterised by an abnormally low count of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. These cells play a crucial role in the immune system. The causes of lymphopenia may be congenital or inherited. A significant drop in lymphocyte numbers may be a sign of an underlying illness or sickness, necessitating medical attention. The body's first line of defence, lymphocytes, quickly react to threats from dangerous antigens intruding on our body. Understanding lymphocytopenia is important for keeping an eye on immunological health.


How is lymphopenia caused?

Some of the main causes of lymphopenia are listed below:

  • Immune System Disorders:
    • Lymphocytopenia may result from excessive immune reactions brought on by autoimmune diseases such as lupus, myasthenia gravis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Low lymphocyte numbers may also be a side effect of several immunosuppressive drugs used to treat these illnesses.


  • Cancer and Cancer Treatments
    • Lymphocyte numbers may fall as a result of blood or lymphatic malignancies like lymphoma and leukaemia.
    • Cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation may also cause lymphocytopenia


  • Diseases of the Blood and Bone Marrow:
    • Blood and bone marrow, diseases such as aplastic anaemia and lymphoproliferative disorders can lower lymphocyte numbers.


  • Infections:
    • Lymphocytopenia frequently results from viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal illnesses.
    • Lymphocyte counts can decrease as a result of diseases like AIDS, histoplasmosis, influenza, and tuberculosis.


  • Biological Reasons:
    • Uncommon genetic disorders like ataxia-telangiectasia, DiGeorge syndrome, severe combined immunodeficiency, and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome can bring on Lymphocytopenia.


  • Nutritional Factors:
    • Lymphocytopenia can be brought on by malnutrition, which frequently results from a lack of vital nutrients.
    • Reduced lymphocyte production is a potential side effect of eating disorders like anorexia.


  • Gastrointestinal disorders:
    • Conditions that weaken the gut wall, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and zinc deficiency, can affect how well nutrients are absorbed and can cause lymphocytopenia.
    • T-cell lymphocytopenia can result from zinc deficiency, which can also impair immunological function.


  • Medications:
    • Lymphocyte numbers may be decreased by a number of drugs, including azathioprine, carbamazepine, corticosteroids, and opioids.
    • Certain medications, including those used to treat osteoporosis like bisphosphonates, can also cause lymphocytopenia.


  • Kidney Diseases:
    • Advanced chronic renal disease may result in lymphocytopenia
    • Acute renal damage might also cause lymphocytopenia


  • Surgery and Trauma:
    • Lowered lymphocyte numbers might be a result of trauma or serious crises like heart failure.
    • Surgery, including heart bypass surgery, can aggravate lymphocytopenia.


  • Other factors:
    • Drinking alcohol and stress can also cause lymphocytopenia
    • A rare illness known as idiopathic CD4-positive lymphocytopenia lacks a known cause.

Also read:

Risk factors

Following are the risk factors associated with the development of lymphocytopenia.


  • Recent Surgery or Infection:
    • People who recently underwent surgery or had an infection may be at risk of developing lymphocytopenia.


  • Underlying Conditions:
    • People who have autoimmune disorders or other chronic illnesses, which might result in lymphocytopenia, are at risk.


  • Use of Medication:
    • Some drugs can affect lymphocyte numbers. Such prescription medicines may raise the risk of lymphocytopenia in users.


  • Age:
    • Due to changes brought on by ageing, older persons are more susceptible to lymphocytopenia.


  • Malnutrition:
    • Due to a weakened immune system, people who are undernourished are more at risk of developing lymphocytopenia.



Lymphocytopenia can be a crucial sign of underlying medical problems. Effective diagnosis and treatment depend on pinpointing and addressing the core causes. Understanding the various causes of lymphocytopenia brings to light the complexity of immune function and the significance of in-depth medical testing. Restoring lymphocyte levels and ensuring the body's capacity to fight infections and maintain optimal well-being require customised therapies and interventions based on the cause.

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