Reasons for an Increased White Blood Cell Count

Reasons for an Increased White Blood Cell Count

White blood cells, or leukocytes, are responsible for defending the body from viruses, infections and any other external factor that poses a threat to health. Given their important role in the body, having a good white blood cell count is essential,. However, when values are higher than usual, it is important to see a specialist to determine the reason for the increase and to assess your general state of health. In this oneHOWTO article, we'll explain some of the possible reasons for an increased white blood cell count.

Different types of white blood cells

Before going into the possible reasons for a high white blood cell count, it is important to distinguish between the different types of leucocytes because each type should be present at a specific level to maintain health. The following are types of white blood cells:

  • Lymphocytes: produce antibodies and destroy abnormal cells.
  • Monocytes: are responsible for phagocytosis, or the ingestion of certain organisms or cellular debris.
  • Neutrophils: are the most abundant group, and like monocytes perform phagocytosis of organisms such as fungi and bacteria.
  • Basophils: are the least abundant group, and are involved in immunity response processes to support the release of substances such as histamines or serotonin.
  • Eosinophils: are responsible not only for phagocytosis but also for regulating allergic responses and hypersensitivity reactions that occur when a foreign organism enters the body.

Normal white blood cell levels

To be completely healthy, each microlitre of blood should contain between 4,000 and 11,000 white blood cells, although some experts suggest that the maximum values should be 10,000 or 10,500 depending on age, so this upper limit will be at the discretion of the laboratory. It is said that the leukocyte count is high when the number of leukocytes exceeds 11,000 per microlitre of blood.

Having an elevated white blood cell count is known as leucocytosis, and it indicates that the body is fighting a virus or infection, which could be just temporary or, for suffers of major illness, could be a chronic complaint. It is important to find out what the causes of an increased white blood cell count are in order to begin the appropriate treatment.

Possible causes of an increased white blood cell count

High leukocytes in the blood may be due to the following:

  • Infections, viruses or bacteria. When we catch the flu, a virus or an infection, our body reacts by increasing the number of white blood cells to fight the foreign bodies and maintain health.
  • Anaemia can also produce an increase in white blood cells.
  • Symptoms of severe stress are also responsible for an increase in leukocytes.
  • The consumption of certain types of medications, drugs or narcotics can also have the same effect.
  • Severe allergic reactions put the body's defense system on alert, causing an increase in white blood cells.
  • The presence of tumors or leukemia also cause a high white blood cell count.
  • Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Diseases such measles, myelofibrosis or whooping cough also produce an increase in lymphocytes.
  • Pulmonary infarction
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Having a smoking habit.

What should I do if I have a high count?

If you are suffering from an infectious, bacterial or viral illness, or you've just recovered from one, then it is normal to have a high white blood cell count. As soon as the virus, bacteria or infection are under control, the levels will return to normal.

If you have not recently suffered from any illness of this kind and a blood test has indicated an elevated leukocyte count, then it is important to see a hematologist for a medical review of the tests and a thorough check-up in order to pinpoint the cause of the increased number of white blood cells in your body. Only a specialist can determine what has caused the condition and the proper treatment regime.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Reasons for an Increased White Blood Cell Count, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

  • Do not be alarmed, the increase in white blood cells is normal after the flu or an infection.
  • If you have doubts regarding the result of the analysis, it's best you visit a hematologist.