Lupus and your body

How does lupus affect my white blood cells?

Dr. Michael Rosove is a Medical Oncologist in Los Angeles, CA and a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles, School of Medicine.

See all of Michael Rosove, MD's answers.

White blood cells are actually made up of several different types of cells, including neutrophils (also called granulocytes), lymphocytes and monocytes. White blood cells are the body’s main defense against infection. A reduction in the number of white blood cells is called leukopenia; a particular reduction in granulocytes is called neutropenia (or granulocytopenia).

Leukopenia and neutropenia are very common in active lupus, but rarely are white cell counts low enough to lead to infection. Counts may be lowered by azathioprine, cyclophosphamide and some other drugs. Therefore, white cell counts are always monitored during treatment with these agents. If counts go too low, the prescribed drug is usually stopped briefly or the dosage is reduced. When infections occur in lupus, they are more often related to alterations in the body's immune system that are not reflected in routine blood counts.

The Lupus Foundation of America would like to thank Michael Rosove, MD, for this information.

Medically reviewed on September 03, 2013