Can Osteoarthritis Deplete Neutrophil Counts?

The abnormal levels of low neutrophil counts are medically called neutropenia. There are some health conditions or even the use of certain medicines that can lead to neutropenia. How about osteoarthritis (OA), the most common generative joint problem in arthritis? Can it cause neutropenia?

Understanding neutropenia in general

image_illustration216There are numerous different types of white blood cells. One of them is what we call as neutrophils. Other major types are monocytes, basophils, eosinophils, and lymphocytes

So, neutrophil is a kind of white blood cell. It is so essential for the defense of your body in fighting against infections especially those triggered by bad fungi and bacteria.

The definition for normal neutrophil count varies slightly. In children the normal counts vary with the age. But in general, one microliter of blood in adults should normally have about 1,700 neutrophils.

Since this white blood cell is important to protect the body from the infection, too low level counts can put you at high risk of having infectious diseases.

For instance, you are easier to have infection from not-harmful bacteria that live naturally in your digestive tract /mouth if you have lower than 500 neutrophils /microliter of your blood (severe neutropenia).

Osteoarthritis (OA) diagnosis

OA is a common degenerative joint problem that occurs due to poor function of cartilage in the joint that degenerates and wear away as the age. Nevertheless, the exact cause of OA is not fully understood yet.

Typically, it doesn’t develop suddenly but tends to develop gradually over time. However in a few cases, it can occur suddenly due to injury or accident such as injury from sport activity that causes sudden cartilage damage.

Joint pain in the affected joint is usually the common symptom. But while it is common in people with OA, it also reflects lots of different health conditions. So having joint pain doesn’t definitely mean that you have OA. Even it is also a common symptom of other types of arthritis.

But doctor can use other characteristics of OA to help make the diagnosis. Here is a table of some characteristics that distinguish OA from RA (rheumatoid arthritis, another common form of arthritis).

Generally, the diagnosis for OA is largely determined by analyzing a complete physical examination and acquiring a detailed history. Several tests can be involved to rule out other possible causes.

Is there a link between osteoarthritis and depletion level of neutrophil counts?

As mentioned before, some medicines can affect these white cells counts in the blood, particularly for those that can cause damage to bone marrow and destroy neutrophils. And it’s also clear that there are some health conditions that can lead to neutropenia, these may include:

  1. Severe infectious or other conditions that make your body use neutrophils more quickly than usual. While the production of new neutrophils is lower than the number in which they are used, your body gets deficiency of these white blood cells.
  2. Any abnormality conditions of body immune system (autoimmune disorders) that destroy bone marrow or neutrophils.
  3. Viral infections and cancer that can cause poor bone morrow function.
  4. Congenital conditions characterized by poor function of bone marrow.

How about osteoarthritis? This kind of arthritis has nothing to do with autoimmune disorder.

Many people with OA have less than 500 white blood cells per square millimeter which most of these cells are mononuclear cells. And in general, the depletion of neutrophil counts is not linked to osteoarthritis.

In arthritis, low counts of neutrophils are more commonly associated with rheumatoid arthritis, not osteoarthritis.

Blood test used to diagnose OA is commonly purposed to analyze the existence of other possible causes – not for OA. In other words, actually there is no specific blood test used for the diagnosis of OA.

For instance, a blood test can help doctor analyze the number of rheumatoid factor (RF) in the blood. Greater number of RF is usually common in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Blood test also can help reveal the number of uric acid. Elevated uric acid may point to another form of arthritis such as gout.

Instead, the use of imaging tests is commonly popular choice to help diagnose OA. These tests include x-ray tests, MRI, or CT-scan. See more tests and procedures to diagnose this joint disease in this section!

However ancillary diagnostic tests (such as blood test and joint fluid analysis) may occasionally be necessary when the diagnosis of the problem remains uncertain.

Citations /references:

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/neutropenia/basics/causes/sym-20050854
  2. http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=white_cell_count
  3. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0301/p841.html