Acanthocytosis (also known as “eat your heart out” or “acne on the brain”) is a common skin condition caused by excess production of certain white blood cells called Acanthocytes. These are tiny red blood cells that live in the dermis layer of most human bodies. They produce antibodies against bacteria, viruses, fungi and other foreign invaders that cause infections in humans and animals. Acanthocytosis may occur spontaneously or it may result from exposure to an infectious agent such as a virus, bacteria, fungus or insect bite.
Acanthocytosis can affect any part of the body but is most commonly seen in the face, upper chest and groin areas. It is usually mild and self-limiting.
However, if left untreated, it can lead to severe inflammation of these areas which may require surgery. Acanthocytosis is one of the most common causes of skin cancer in humans. Acanthocytosis is also associated with a higher risk for developing leukemia and lymphoma later in life.
Acanthocyte counts increase when there are infections or stressors occurring within the body. Acanthocytes also release their own chemicals that help them fight against foreign invaders.
These chemical weapons can be very damaging to the human body if a large number of acanthocytes are allowed to grow out of control within the body. If this occurs, the human body will increase the production of Acanthocytes to fight off the infection.
Acanthocytes can be found in infants and young children. However, the majority of these cells die off as the child gets older and their immune system becomes stronger.
Acanthocytes are also found in premature babies who were born with a low white blood cell count. They are also found in people who have had a bone marrow transplant or those who suffer from autoimmune diseases or leukemia.
Acanthocytes are also found in people with iron deficiencies, as these cells contain a large amount of iron. They are also common in people who have a history of excessive alcohol use, liver disease or Crohn’s disease.
Other factors that can cause acanthocytosis include antibiotic therapy, extreme emotional stress, and the excessive intake of vitamin A.
Acanthocytosis is most commonly diagnosed in medical facilities through a blood test. The presence of acanthocytes can be determined through direct microscopy.
This involves taking a small drop of blood from the patient’s finger and examining it under a microscope. If acanthocytes are detected, the patient will undergo further testing to determine the underlying cause.
The underlying cause of acanthocytosis will be treated by a physician. Iron deficiency will be treated with an iron supplement.
Alcoholism will be addressed by a counselor or doctor. Antibiotic therapy will be stopped. In some cases, the patient may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Acanthocytosis is not contagious and does not pose a risk to other people’s health. Acanthocytes are non-dividing cells and will not multiply or spread outside of the bloodstream.
Acanthocytosis is not a life-threatening condition, but it can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer later in life. People with acanthocytosis may need to have regular physical check-ups with a doctor to determine the presence of cancerous cells.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Late appearance of acanthocytes during the course of chorea-acanthocytosis by G Sorrentino, A De Renzo, S Miniello, O Nori… – Journal of the …, 1999 – Elsevier
Acanthocytes of Stropharia rugosoannulata function as a nematode-attacking device by H Luo, X Li, G Li, Y Pan, K Zhang – Applied and environmental …, 2006 – Am Soc Microbiol
Benign X-linked myopathy with acanthocytes (McLeod syndrome) its relationship to X-linked muscular dystrophy by M Swash, MS Schwartz, ND Carter, R Heath, M Leak… – Brain, 1983 – academic.oup.com