High white blood cell counts: All you should know

White blood cells are essential components of the circulatory system. They are necessary for health and well-being because they fight infection.

A high white blood cell count could mean that your immune system is fighting an infection.

It could also be a symptom of physical or emotional stress. White blood cell counts may be elevated in people with specific blood cancers.

A low white blood cell count can indicate that the body is destroying cells quicker than it is manufacturing them, or that the body is producing too few of them as a result of an injury or ailment.

White blood cells make up about 1% of all blood cells and are necessary for the immune system to operate properly. Leukocytes are another name for white blood cells.

White blood cells are constantly produced in the bone marrow. They are kept in the body’s blood and lymphatic systems until they are needed to fight an infection or disease.

Causes

White blood cells
White blood cells are blood cells that protect the body against disease and foreign invaders.

Leukocytosis is a term for an increase in white blood cells. It usually happens as a result of the following circumstances.

  • infection
  • immunosuppression
  • medications, such as corticosteroids
  • a bone marrow or immune disorder
  • certain types of cancer, such as acute or chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • inflammation
  • injury or surgery
  • emotional stress or trauma
  • genetic or hereditary conditions
  • labor
  • pregnancy
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • allergic reactions
  • excessive exercise

White blood cell numbers may rise as a result of certain respiratory illnesses, such as whooping cough or tuberculosis.

All white blood cells can be affected in some circumstances. However, some patients suffer from an illness that affects only one type of white blood cell.

It’s possible that an increase in one type of white blood cell is related to a specific trigger:

  • Monocytes: The presence of chronic infection, an autoimmune or blood problem, cancer, or other medical conditions may be indicated by high levels of monocytes.
  • Lymphocytes: Lymphocytic leukocytosis is a disorder that occurs when the number of lymphocytes in the body increases. This could be caused by a virus or an infection like tuberculosis. It may also be associated to some lymphomas and leukemia types.
  • Neutrophils: A health condition known as neutrophilic leukocytosis occurs when a person’s body’s neutrophil count rises too high. This is a common immunological reaction to infections, injuries, inflammation, some medicines, and certain forms of leukemia.
  • Basophils: Basophil levels may rise in patients with a history of hypothyroidism, or as a result of other illnesses such allergies or leukemia.
  • Eosinophils: The body may be reacting to a parasite infection, drug, allergy, or asthma if excessive amounts of eosinophils are detected.

On rare occasions, there is no known cause for an increase in white blood cells. Idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome is the name for this condition. It can cause major consequences such heart, lung, liver, skin, and nervous system damage.

Idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • weight loss
  • fevers
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain
  • chest pain
  • swelling
  • stomach ache
  • skin rashes and itching
  • pain
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • speech impairment
  • visual disturbances
  • anemia
  • coma

High white blood cell count during pregnancy

Because of the physical stress that the body experiences throughout pregnancy, white blood cell numbers rise considerably. Within the first trimester, the levels begin to rise and continue to rise into the third trimester.

White blood cell levels may rise again during labor in the hours after birth, to between 9,000 and 25,000 white blood cells in every microliter of blood. This is a reaction to the physical demands and trauma of childbirth.

White blood cells return to normal levels about 6–8 weeks post delivery.

Types

White blood cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of functions.

Most people will produce around 100 billion white blood cells every day.

Every microliter of blood contains between 4,500 and 11,000 white blood cells, though this varies depending on sex, age, and race.

White blood cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of functions:

  • Lymphocytes: These are vital for producing antibodies that help the body defend itself against bacteria, viruses, and other threats.
  • Neutrophils: These are powerful white blood cells that destroy bacteria and fungi.
  • Basophils: These alert the body to infections by secreting chemicals into the bloodstream, mostly to combat allergies.
  • Eosinophils: These are responsible for destroying parasites and cancer cells, and they are part of an allergic response.
  • Monocytes: These are responsible for attacking and breaking down germs or bacteria that enter the body.

Monocytes move to other organs such as the spleen, liver, lungs, and bone marrow as necessary, where they change into macrophages.

A macrophage performs a variety of tasks, including the removal of dead or damaged tissue, the destruction of cancer cells, and the regulation of the immune response.

Other imbalances

blood test
A blood test may be used by a doctor to determine white blood cell levels.

If the number of white blood cells in the blood is lower than typical, it could indicate that the person’s immune system is underperforming.

This can happen as a result of HIV-like conditions or immunosuppressive medicines.

People with illnesses or drugs that suppress the immune system have a higher risk of infection due to a lack of white blood cells.

Some cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, have abnormal blood cell production.

The bone marrow can be affected by a variety of illnesses known as myeloproliferative disorders.

When there are too many immature blood cells created, an imbalance occurs. Myeloproliferative diseases are uncommon conditions that can progress to cancer.

Symptoms and possible diagnoses

The precise consequences of a high white blood cell count are determined on the illness or factor that caused it.

White blood cell count fluctuations may not cause any symptoms at all.

A doctor can perform a blood test to examine the white blood cell count after noting any symptoms, and other tests and examinations are frequently required to establish the exact origin of the problem.

Conclusion

A high white blood cell count can mean a number of things, including the immune system fighting an infection, physical or emotional stress, or certain types of cancer.

Pregnancy also causes an increase in white blood cell count, which rises from the first to the third trimester. Due to the extreme stress that the body receives during labor, white blood cell levels will also rise in the hours following delivery.

A low white blood cell count, on the other hand, may indicate that the body is destroying cells quicker than it is producing them as a result of an injury or condition. It’s also possible that the body isn’t making enough of them.

While the symptoms of a high white blood cell count will vary depending on the cause, changes in white blood cell counts may not cause any symptoms.

Sources

  • https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/blood-basics
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3422383/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315133
  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.00314/full
  • https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/2804/hypereosinophilic-syndrome
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560882/
  • https://www.glowm.com/article/heading/vol-8–maternal-medical-health-and-disorders-in-pregnancy–hematological-normal-ranges-in-pregnancy/id/413403#.YYZoU2DP02w
  • https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/1201/p1004.html
  • https://www.lls.org/treatment/lab-and-imaging-tests/understanding-blood-counts