White blood cell disorders occur when you have too many or too few white blood cells . White blood cells, also known as white blood cells , are one of the four types of cells that make up blood. They are produced in the bone marrow and play an important role in your immune system .
Doctors can measure these cells using a test called a white blood cell count (WBC) . When your white blood cell count is abnormally high, it usually indicates that your immune system is fighting disease or infection. If they are too low, it means that a disease, autoimmune disorder , or other condition has weakened your immune system.
While you cannot diagnose any disease based on your white blood cell count, the test can often be the first sign of a disease and even an indication of the type of disease you have.
This article will discuss the different types of leukocyte abnormalities, how they are recognized, their causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
A disorder refers to any condition that interferes with the normal functioning of the body. Leukocyte disorders are divided into two categories:
- Leukopenia : a decrease in the number of white blood cells, which can be caused by cell destruction or insufficient production.
- Leukocytosis : Increased white blood cell count, which may be a normal immune response, but is also caused by certain cancers or non-cancerous diseases.
There are also five main types of white blood cells, each of which has a specific function:
- Monocytes : front-line defenders that attack anything the immune system deems abnormal.
- Lymphocytes : Blood cells that make immune proteins called antibodies that target and fight certain disease-causing organisms.
- Neutrophils : blood cells that mainly fight bacterial infections.
- Eosinophils : blood cells that mainly fight parasitic infections.
- Basophils – Blood cells that cause inflammation to fight infection, disease, or toxins.
Some diseases affect only one type of white blood cell, others affect many. For example, lymphocytic leukocytosis only affects lymphocytes, whereas neutrophilic leukocytosis only affects neutrophils. The type of cells affected can help doctors determine what disease they are dealing with.
Leukopenia means that you have too few white blood cells. Leukocytosis means an excessive number of white blood cells. White blood cell abnormalities can affect only one type of cell, such as neutrophils, or several.
Symptoms of leukocyte cell abnormalities can vary depending on the underlying cause, although some people may be asymptomatic. If symptoms do develop, they can often be nonspecific. The symptoms of leukopenia and leukocytosis may even overlap.
Bleeding or bruising
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Pain or tingling in the legs, arms, or abdomen
Eye sight problems
Loss of appetite
There are many different causes of leukocyte abnormalities. Some are caused by serious infections, autoimmune diseases, genetics, or cancer that damages blood cells or the bone marrow .
Others are related to treatment or are caused by problems with other types of blood cells, such as red blood cells . Some of them are completely idiopathic, that is, of unknown origin.
Some of the leukocyte abnormalities associated with leukopenia include:
- Aplastic anemia : A rare condition in which the body stops making enough new blood cells.
- Autoimmune Neutropenia – A condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys neutrophils.
- Congenital neutropenia : A genetic disorder in which the body does not make enough neutrophils.
- Cyclic Neutropenia : A rare genetic disorder in which the production of neutrophils decreases approximately every 21 days.
- Chronic granulomatous disease : Genetic disorder in which certain white blood cells malfunction and behave abnormally.
- Leukocyte Adhesion Disorder : A group of rare genetic disorders that affect the ability of white blood cells to fight infection.
Some of the leukocyte abnormalities associated with leukocytosis include:
- Chronic idiopathic neutrophilia – a condition in which neutrophils remain constantly elevated for no apparent reason.
- Hemolytic anemia : a condition in which red blood cells die faster than they are formed, often due to an underlying genetic or autoimmune cause.
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenia : A condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys blood-clotting cells called platelets .
- Lymphoma : A group of cancers that originate in the cells of the lymphatic system .
- Lymphocytic leukemia : A type of blood cancer that begins with lymphocytes.
- Myeloproliferative diseases : includes six types of slow-growing cancers that cause leukocyte overproduction (chronic eosinophilic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic neutrophilic leukemia, essential thrombocytopenia , polycythemia vera , and primary myelofibrosis).
One of the first tests used to diagnose white blood cell abnormalities is a complete blood count (CBC) . This test measures all types of blood cells in a blood sample. It also measures the proportion of individual blood cells, which can help narrow down possible causes.
Laboratory results are compared to a high and low reference range. Any value between high and low values is considered normal. Anything above or below the reference range is considered abnormal.
The reference range for the total leukocyte count (WBC) can vary from laboratory to laboratory, but is generally described as follows:
- Males : 5,000 to 10,000 cells per microliter of blood (cells / ml)
- Women : 4,500 to 11,000 cells / ml.
- Newborns to 2 weeks of age : 9000 to 30000 cells / ml
- Children and adolescents : 5,000 to 10,000 cells / ml.
If your results are higher or lower than normal, your doctor will investigate possible causes. This may include a blood smear in which a drop of blood is placed on a glass slide and examined under a microscope for abnormalities in the cell's structure.
White blood cell abnormalities are usually diagnosed with a complete blood count. A blood test measures the total number of white blood cells, the number of individual types of white blood cells, and the proportion of different blood cells in a blood sample.
Treatment of leukocyte disorders depends on the cause. Some therapies are used to treat disease, while others simply manage and control the disease. Others are still used to relieve symptoms or normalize white blood cell counts.
Possible treatments include:
White blood cell transfusion is rarely used to treat people with white blood cell disorders. Research has shown that they do not reduce the risk of death or prevent infection.
White blood cell disease is a disease in which white blood cells are abnormally low (leukopenia) or abnormally high (leukocytosis). It can be caused by a variety of possible causes, including infections, genetic disorders, autoimmune diseases, and, in rare cases, cancer. There are even cases where the cause is unknown.
White blood cell disorders often require extensive testing to identify the underlying cause. This may include a complete blood count (CBC) and a blood smear, as well as special procedures such as a bone marrow biopsy.
Treatment for a leukocyte disorder depends on the cause. While some conditions are serious and require aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, others can be relatively mild and require little to no treatment.
Get the word of drug information
There is a wide range of leukocyte abnormalities, some of which are more serious than others. Many of these are chronic health problems, which means you have to work closely with your doctor for a long time to stay healthy.
That said, having an abnormally high or abnormally low white blood cell count doesn't necessarily mean you have a serious medical condition. Some conditions are easy to treat, while others may have an unknown cause or symptoms.
If your white blood cell count is abnormal, try not to jump to conclusions. Instead, see your doctor for a diagnosis. If you do not understand what the test result means, ask your doctor for an explanation so that you can fully participate in treatment decisions.
Frequently asked questions
For adults, the normal range for white blood cells is 4,500 to 11,000 cells / ml. What is considered normal may vary slightly depending on the laboratory performing the test. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your results and if you need more tests.
There are no foods or supplements that increase the white blood cell count. However, you can reduce the risk of infection by practicing good hygiene and food safety, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding sick people.