What does high white blood cells count indicate?

Blood is the fluid that circulates throughout the body carrying nutrients and oxygen to all the cells and tissues and at the same time removes waste materials and carbon dioxide. During a complete physical test, your doctor will order a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test to evaluate Red Blood Cell (RBC) count, White Blood Cell (WBC) count, the platelet count, hemoglobin and mean red cell volume.

The complete blood count is usually ordered to help evaluate the blood and the bone marrow as well as the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, to identify infections, look for anemia and leukemia and monitor the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, play an important role in the immune system of an individual.
They fight infections in a process known as ‘phagocytosis’ where they surround the foreign organisms and destroy it. White blood cells also help in production, transportation and distribution of antibodies in order to build the body’s immune system. When acute infection occurs, the white blood cells produce colony-stimulating factor (CSF), which further stimulates the bone marrow to increase the production of the white blood cell. This production can be doubled within a few hours.

However, too much of white blood cells doesn't always mean a good thing. A high white blood cell count (also called leukocytosis) isn't a specific disease but could indicate an underlying problem. This is why high white blood cell count always requires further medical evaluation.

A normal white blood cell count is between 4,500 and 10,000 cells per microliter. In the absence of any disease, they form just about 1% by volume of the total blood in the body. There are five different types of white blood cells and each serves a different function in the body. They are the neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and the basophils.
The differential blood count gives a clearer picture for the cause of a disease.

In a normal person, the number of white blood cells ranges:

• Neutrophils: 3150 to 6200
• Lymphocytes: 1500 to 3000
• Monocytes: 300 to 500
• Eosinophils: 50 to 250
• Basophils: 15 to 50
per micro liter of blood.

These counts serve as indicators to specific diseases. For example, a high neutrophil count would indicate an infection, a cancer or physical stress while high lymphocytes counts would indicate AIDS. High monocyte and eosinophil count usually pinpoint bacterial infection.

High white blood cell count could indicate:

• Infection
• Inflammation
• Trauma
• Tissue damage (from burns)
• Use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, antibiotics or anti-seizure drugs
• Allergy
• Chronic bone marrow diseases such as a myeloproliferative disorder
• Acute or chronic leukemia
• Diverticular Disease
• Intense exercise
• Severe physical or emotional stress

It is important to say that high white blood cell count would be considered normal in certain situations:

• Pregnancy in the final month and labor may be associated with increased WBC levels.
• Spleen removal could grant persistent mild to moderate increased WBC count.
• Normal newborns and infants have higher WBC counts than adults
• Too much smoking could also cause an increased WBC count.

The WBC count tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon and they are age-related. When the white blood cell counts continue to rise or fall to abnormal levels it means that the condition is getting worse. Scientists are still not certain if, besides being a good indicator or a problem, high white blood cell count could also trigger a serious disease or if it naturally rises after an illness.

One thing is certain though. You should not ignore your doctor's orders to have a white blood count done. It is a reliable and inexpensive way that enables better and sooner prognosis.

Source: Heidi/General



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