If you had a blood test, you may have seen the letters WBC among the results. This is your white blood cell count (WBC). This test can help doctors determine if something is happening inside your body. It can also help people living with chronic medical conditions cope with their medical conditions.
Read on to learn more about your white blood cell count, its ranges, and why your doctor may order one of these tests.
(WBC) Count the Fast Facts
What you need to know about the white blood cell count:
- White blood cells fight infection and inflammation in the body.
- A normal white blood cell count is not an exact number.
- White blood cell counts are divided into three ranges: low, normal, and high.
- Doctors use white blood cell counts and other test results to track the status of a disease or condition.
The purpose of the test
Your white blood cells make up less than 1% of all your blood cells. However, they play a vital role in keeping you healthy. They are made in your bone marrow and are part of your immune system.
White blood cells reduce inflammation and fight infection. They also protect your body from damage caused by toxins like air pollution.
Your doctor may order a white blood cell count if you have any of the following symptoms:
White blood cell counts measure the number of white blood cells in your blood. There are five different types of white blood cells:
- Neutrophils fight bacteria and fungal infections. They generally make up 50% to 75% of all white blood cells.
- Lymphocytes fight infection, make antibodies, and destroy tumors. They are found in both blood and lymphatic tissue.
- Monocytes remove dead or damaged cells. They invade tissues such as the lungs and liver and turn into other types of cells that reduce inflammation.
- Eosinophils fight infections caused by parasites. They also respond to allergic reactions and inflammation.
- Basophils release a chemical called histamine during an allergic reaction. This causes symptoms like a runny nose or watery eyes.
If you see the number of these five cells in your results, your doctor has ordered a white blood cell differential test. Difference tests can tell doctors which type of white blood cell count is high or low. This can help them decide what is causing your symptoms.
The white blood cell count is often part of a more extensive test called a total blood cell count (CBC). A doctor's order (CBC) counts if you are going to have a physical exam or if they suspect you have an infection or a certain medical condition. Another reason could be to make sure you don't have too high a level of medication.
How is the test done
A simple blood test is required to determine the white blood cell count. The doctor will draw blood from one of your veins with a fine needle. You usually get lab results after a few days.
Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking your medications, vitamins, or supplements a few days before the test. This is to make sure they don't interfere with your results.
Reference range (normal)
The white blood cell count is also known as the leukocyte or white blood cell count. There is no set number to define a "normal" counter (WBC). Results vary from low, normal, or high.
Labs may differ in their measurements and in how they determine high or low counts (WBC). (WBC) The amount also varies from person to person. Factors such as your age, gender, race, and the time of day the blood was drawn can affect your results.
For example, Chinese researchers examined blood samples from 46,879 people. Participants ranged from high school students to seniors. They found that the levels of some white blood cells change in women after menopause.
Another major study by British researchers found that time matters. Research has shown that (WBC) results can vary by up to 24% depending on whether your test was in the morning or at the end of the day.
Most test results serve as a guide to what the laboratory considers high, low, and normal for people your age and gender. The following figure shows an example of a range table. Units are indicated in cells per cubic millimeter (mm3).
|Example of white blood cell (WBC) control ranges|
|Approximate low range||<4000 leukocytes per mm3|
|Approximate normal range||4,500-10,000 leukocytes per mm3|
|Approximate high range||> 10,000 leukocytes per mm3|
White blood cells fight infection and inflammation in the body. White blood cell counts are divided into three ranges: low, normal, and high.
interpretation of results
The amount (WBC) is not specific enough to diagnose a specific disease. However, you can provide information to help your doctor discover what might be going on inside of you.
If you have a high white blood cell count, this is called leukocytosis. The condition can be caused by:
- Use of steroids
- Smoking cigars
- The pregnancy
If you have a low white blood cell count, you have leukopenia. The condition could be related to:
Abnormal white blood cell count due to medications.
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause abnormal white blood cell counts. That is why it is so important that you consult your doctor carefully. Be sure to list all the medications you are taking.
A common side effect of many medications is a low white blood cell count. Classes of drugs that can do this include chemotherapy, anticonvulsants, and antibiotics.
Some medicines can increase the white blood cell count. Common medications that can do this include:
- Albuterol is a drug that dilates the airways. It is used to treat asthma and other breathing problems.
- Lithium is a mood stabilizing drug. It is used to treat manic depression and bipolar disorder.
- Heparin is an anticoagulant. It is used to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Other tests your doctor may order
If your (white blood cell) count is abnormal, your doctor may order additional tests based on your medical history and symptoms. These may include tests to check for:
- Infection – Doctors may order a strep test or urine culture, for example, if they think you have a bacterial infection. If they think you have the virus, they can order a test to determine if you have mononucleosis or the Epstein-Barr virus.
- Inflammation problem: Doctors may order a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP levels increase if you have inflammation anywhere in your body.
- Autoimmune disease: Doctors may order an antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. This test looks for autoantibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues.
- Allergies – Doctors may order a skin or food allergy test.
- Leukemia – Doctors may order additional blood and bone marrow tests.
(WBC) Considered a biomarker
If your (white blood cell) count becomes abnormal again, it is important to see your doctor and determine the cause. Research has shown that high white blood cell counts can indicate serious health problems.
Researchers performed blood tests on 74,375 women who were going through menopause. After three years, they repeated the tests and followed the women for 16 years. The researchers found that a high white blood cell count was associated with an increased risk of death, especially from heart disease.
They believe this is due to inflammation in the body. Other studies have linked getting more than one high white blood cell count with an increased risk of death from stroke and cancer.
(WBC) Number and race
Several studies have shown that race can also be a factor in the WBC score. In a large study, researchers looked at blood samples from 7,157 men and women.
The researchers found that black participants had significantly lower white blood cell counts than non-black study participants.
The researchers note that differences in white blood cell counts cause delays in treatment in black patients. One study found that up to 70% of clinical decisions are based on information obtained from laboratory investigations. The number of doctors using the labs may depend on their specialty. Other researchers warn that the use of current count standards (WBC) could lead to the exclusion of black patients from clinical trials.
White blood cells fight infection and inflammation. The white blood cell count (WBC) measures the number of white blood cells in your blood. The test is not specific enough to diagnose a specific disease or condition. However, it can provide valuable clues as to what may be causing your symptoms. Results may vary depending on the lab your doctor used and how he defines the low, normal, or high range.
Many factors, including infections, inflammation, and conditions like blood or bone marrow diseases, can cause abnormal white blood cell counts. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take because many medicines can also affect your results.
It is important to discuss your (white blood cell) count with your doctor to understand what they might mean.