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Overview of High White Blood Cell Count: Meaning, symptoms, causes, and treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Although White Blood Cells (WBC) are essential for the body's immunological response, they comprise only about 1% of total blood cells. A High White Blood Cell Count (HWBCC), also known as Leukocytosis (LKT), may indicate a variety of health issues, including infection or a blood or bone marrow disorder.

A HWBCC implies that your body is dealing with an infection, allergic reaction, or inflammation. This is because when you become ill, your body produces more WBC to combat whatever is causing your disease. Exercise, pregnancy, and even certain drugs can induce an increase in WBC. Since a HWBCC or LKT, may indicate an underlying disease, it's essential to determine the cause and treat it as soon as possible. This article will take you through some of the different types, causes, and symptoms of LKT along with its treatment and prevention.

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What are White Blood Cells?

White Blood Cells are the cells that protect the body from infection caused by viruses, parasites, fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens that invade. WBC are seen in both the body's tissues and the bloodstream and have the ability to discover and destroy infections. They are the blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow and circulated through the bloodstream and tissues. 

These cells are an essential component of your body's defence mechanism that helps your body fight infections and ailments. Here's a brief summary of the several types of White Blood Cells and their roles in the body.

1. Neutrophils

They are the most abundant form of WBC, accounting for 70% of the total count. When bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens enter your body, they are your body's first defence against infection.

2. Lymphocytes 

They consist of two types of white blood cells, namely B cells and T cells. 

3. Monocytes

They destroy bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that might cause disease. They also enhance your immune system and eliminate dead cells. Monocytes contribute 5% to 12% of the WBC in your bloodstream.

4. Eosinophils 

While eosinophils help fight infections, their primary function is to target and eliminate parasites. These cells, which account for around 5% of your total WBC count, also affect allergic reactions.

Check out: Eosinophil Count Calculator

5. Basophils 

They immediately release a substance known as histamine when you encounter something allergic. Histamine is a typical sign of an allergic reaction that affects the immune system. It can also be the cause of anaphylaxis and hypersensitivity.

What is Leukocytosis?

Leukocytosis, often known as a High White Blood Cell Count, indicates that you have an abnormally high number of WBC. LKT is a typical immunological reaction to infection or inflammation in your body. However, a HWBCC might sometimes indicate something more dangerous. As per studies, the normal range for White Blood Cells is 4,000 to 11,000/mL. Anything above this threshold is classified as Leukocytosis.

Types of Leukocytosis

Depending on which cell is affected, there are five different types of Leukocytosis. Each type is associated with a variety of health conditions.

  • Neutrophilia: When you have a high number of neutrophils in your body, it indicates inflammation and infections.

  • Lymphocytosis: When you have a high number of lymphocytes, it may indicate leukaemia and viral infections.

  • Monocytosis: Having more than the desired number of monocytes may indicate cancer and other types of infections.

  • Eosinophilia: If your eosinophil count is high, it may cause parasites and allergies.

  • Basophilia: A higher count of basophils than the normal range may lead to leukaemia.

Causes of High White Blood Cell Count

The causes of Leukocytosis can be classified based on the type of White Blood Cell that is increased.

Some of the most common causes of neutrophilia include the following.

  • Infections

  • Smoking

  • Specific types of leukaemia

  • Physical or emotional stress

  • Splenectomy 

  • A reaction to drugs such as steroids, lithium, or some inhalers

  • Chronic inflammation due to an injury, arthritic conditions, or other inflammatory disorder

Lymphocytosis can be caused by a variety of factors, which may include the following.

  • Allergy symptoms

  • Whooping cough or pertussis

  • Specific types of leukaemia

  • Infections caused by viruses

Some of the most common causes of eosinophilia are as follows.

Monocytosis can be caused by several factors, including the following.

  • Epstein-Barr virus infections (including mononucleosis)

  • Tuberculosis

  • Fungal Infections

  • Lupus and ulcerative colitis

  • Splenectomy

Basophilia can be caused by a number of factors.

Symptoms of Leukocytosis

When your body has an excessively High White Blood Cell Count, it might cause your blood to thicken, impairing blood flow. This can result in a condition known as hyperviscosity syndrome. The symptoms of this condition are as follows.

  • Stroke

  • Troubled vision

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Gastrointestinal haemorrhage, or bleeding from the mouth or stomach

Other signs of LKT may include the following.

  • Fever

  • Pain and inflammation

  • Bruises

  • Trouble breathing

  • Wheezing

  • Itching and hives

  • Loss of weight

  • Night sweating

How is Leukocytosis diagnosed?

There are three types of tests that are often conducted to figure out the cause of your increased White Blood Cell Count.

  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential: The most common test to identify the cause of LKT.

  • Peripheral blood smear:  When you have neutrophilia or lymphocytosis, your doctor may ask you for this test, which examines the morphology and maturity of all blood cells. If there are immature White Blood Cells, a bone marrow biopsy may further be performed. This test includes putting a thin layer of blood onto a glass slide and viewing the cells under a microscope.

  • Bone marrow biopsy:  It is a test used to distinguish between leukaemia and other benign causes. It entails extracting bone marrow from the centre of a bone using a needle and examining it under a microscope. This helps establish whether there are any abnormal cells or a problem with WBC generation in the bone marrow.

Treatment of High White Blood Cell Count

The treatment for Leukocytosis varies depending on the cause. The following are the most prevalent treatment options.

  • Antihistamines are used to treat allergies

  • Inhalation devices for asthma

  • Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections

  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell therapy for leukaemia

  • Medication to alleviate anxiety and stress

  • Treatment for inflammatory diseases

  • Modifying medications to avoid medicine reactions

  • If you have hyperviscosity syndrome, your treatment may include intravenous fluids and medications to help reduce your WBC levels quickly and enhance blood flow

  • Leukapheresis is a technique that reduces the number of White Blood Cells in your blood

Preventing Leukocytosis

Following are some useful techniques to avoid Leukocytosis.

  • Living an active, healthy lifestyle

  • To avoid infection, practise proper hygiene and handwashing

  • Avoiding possible allergens

  • Avoiding smoking and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor for any health conditions

  • Lowering stress levels

  • As and when needed, seek medical care for anxiety or mental health disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of FAQs associated with High White Blood Cell Count

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What is the most effective treatment for High White Blood Cell Count?

Leukapheresis is a technique that reduces the number of White Blood Cells in your blood as quickly as possible. Other treatment options include antihistamines for allergies, inhalers for asthma, antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell therapy for leukaemia, anti-inflammatory medications, and medication to alleviate anxiety and stress.

What are the causes of a High White Blood Cell Count?

Possible causes of Leukocytosis may include infections, smoking, specific types of leukaemia, physical or emotional stress, splenectomy, reaction to drugs such as steroids, lithium, or some inhalers, chronic inflammation due to an injury, arthritic conditions or other inflammatory disorders, allergy symptoms, hay fever, and asthma, infections caused by parasites, lymphoma, and bone marrow cancer, etc.

Is it possible for me to not experience any symptoms?

If your LKT is due to stress or a medicine reaction, you may not experience any symptoms.

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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