A high white blood cell count occurs when the number of white blood cells in the body exceeds the normal range. White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are vital in defending the body against infections and diseases. They identify and destroy pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, when the count of white blood cells becomes elevated, it can indicate an underlying health problem. This article will discuss high white blood cell count symptoms, causes, and treatments.
What is a White Blood Cell?
White blood cells (WBCs) are leukocytes that consist of lymphocytes, monocytes, and granulocytes. WBCs can be identified by their size, look, and function. They also help fight infections by removing harmful organisms and responding to inflammation.
The primary function of white blood cells is to fight off infections by releasing specific toxins and immune system chemicals called cytokines. This involves the following steps:
There are three types of white blood cells:
- Lymphocytes are involved in the early stages of inflammation. They produce cytokines, chemical substances that communicate between different parts of the immune system.
- Monocytes act similarly to lymphocytes but also promote the production of interferons and interleukins. Interferons cause cells to develop antiviral immunity by preventing viral replication and stimulating the removal of viruses from cells.
- Granulocytes work against infections by producing neutrophilic granules that encourage phagocytosis. They are responsible for removing phagocytized microbes by releasing toxic chemicals and killing the microbes with enzymes.
What is the normal range of White blood cell count
The white blood cell count (WBC) is the number of white blood cells in a defined blood volume. Typically the approximate range for adult males is 4,500 to 11,500 WBC/cumm, and for adult females is 4,500 to 10,500 WBC/cumm. This range may be different for children and infants.
It’s important to note that the reference range may vary among different laboratories, so it’s best to consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, certain factors such as infections, medications, and underlying medical conditions can influence the white blood cell count.
Symptoms of a High White Blood Cell Count
A high white blood cell count can cause several symptoms. Many of these symptoms are due to too many white blood cells in the bloodstream. These symptoms include:
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause a fever and chills. When this occurs, it is usually caused by many diseases, includiinflammationory or infection.
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream, which causes an energy reduction. Some people notice fatigue after having high white blood cell counts for long periods, but others see a slight decrease in energy with short-term increases in their counts. If a person has this symptom, they may feel fatigued after exercise, when they wake up from sleeping, and at other times.
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause a person’s temperature to rise at night. Night sweats occur because there is an increase in white blood cells circulating. More white blood cells respond to stimuli, or the body releases chemicals that trigger a fever.
A general feeling of uneasiness and discomfort
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause pain or sensations such as twitching, tingling, and numbness. These sensations usually occur because white blood cells move around more than usual, causing more damage to normal tissue surrounding them.
Pale skin color
This symptom refers to the presence of high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause a person’s skin to appear paler than usual. This occurs because the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that dilate the blood vessels and lower oxygen levels.
Itchy skin or hives (urticaria)
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause a person to itch. This occurs because white blood cells release chemicals in the skin that trigger an allergic reaction.
Shortness of breath
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause difficulty breathing. Breathing may be more difficult when there are higher levels of white blood cells in the lungs. This can be caused by inflammation or lower oxygen levels in the body.
Muscle weakness or cramps
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause low energy levels and feelings of muscle weakness. This occurs because there is an increase in the number of white blood cells circulating.
There are more white blood cells responding to stimuli, or the body is releasing chemicals that cause a reduced state of energy.
This symptom refers to high white blood cells in the bloodstream and can cause small red patches on the skin. These patches are called rashes because they appear as they do. This is because they have been irritated by chemicals released by white blood cells into their environment.
Common Causes of a High White Cell Count
This phenomenon has many other causes, including.
The most common infectious diseases leading to high white blood cell count are infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal), autoimmune disorders, cancers, and leukemia.
For example, cancer can cause a person to experience a higher white blood cell count. This is related to increased inflammatory responses because of the disease or treatment.
Autoimmune disorders are diseases where a person’s immune system makes antibodies that attack their tissue. These antibodies form too many cells and take up too much space in the bloodstream, causing them to elevate above the ordinary.
Some non-infectious diseases can cause a high white blood cell count. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease. This condition can cause inflammation and cause an elevated count of white blood cells.
Cancer is a disease where the cells in a particular part of the body begin to grow out of control and invade tissues around them or spread around the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
All types of cancer can cause an increase in the number of white blood cells in the body because some types release chemicals that can cause inflammation.
Leukemia is a disease where white blood cells begin to multiply out of control. This condition usually affects younger people but can also occur in older people.
The bone marrow may stop producing enough healthy blood cells to replace those lost, or the production of new red blood cells may decrease, leading to less oxygen available in the body. This can increase white blood cell counts and causes higher levels of inflammation.
Food poisoning occurs when a person eats food that contains bacteria that triggers an immune response that can cause a high white blood cell count. Some types of bacteria can cause an elevated white blood cell count, especially in the digestive tract.
How Dangerous Is a High White Blood Cell Count?
High white blood cell counts are not always dangerous. In many cases, when a person has a high white blood cell count, they also have other symptoms that indicate their body is fighting an infection or another condition.
In these cases, it may take time for the doctor to identify the underlying cause of the high white blood cell count, but in most cases, treatment will help a patient’s overall condition.
However, in some situations, a high white blood cell count can cause shock or anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction), which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly and correctly.
How to Treat a High White Cell Count
To treat a high white blood cell count, the doctor may recommend testing to see if the condition is due to infection or a patient’s condition. The most commonly used drugs include:
Hydrocortisone is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands that regulates and stimulates other hormones. It can help decrease high white blood cell counts and reduce symptoms of intense inflammation such as fever, pain, and swelling.
Prednisone is a synthetic compound used to treat various disorders and diseases, such as arthritis and allergies. It is often used to treat eosinophilic esophagitis.
But it also works well to reduce high white blood cell counts and soothe inflammation in the body by helping to reduce the inflammation process in patients who have problems absorbing nutrients from the body.
Methotrexate is an effective drug for treating many types of cancers and has anti-inflammatory effects on the body through its impact on white blood cells.
Azathioprine is a medication that helps reduce the level of immune cells (white blood cells) in the blood. This can help to improve white blood cell count and reduce the risk of infection.
Hydroxychloroquine is an effective drug to control symptoms caused by other conditions and treatments, such as malaria. It works by reducing inflammation in the body and reducing levels of white blood cells. This can help improve white blood cell count and reduce the risk of infection.
1. Can stress cause a high white blood cell count?
Yes, acute stress can cause a temporary increase in white blood cell count. When the body perceives stress, it releases certain hormones that can trigger a response in the immune system, increasing white blood cell count.
2. Is a high white blood cell count always a sign of cancer?
No, a high white blood cell count does not always indicate cancer. While leukemia, a type of blood cancer, can cause a high white blood cell count, several other non-cancerous conditions can also lead to an elevated count.
3. How is a high white blood cell count diagnosed?
A complete blood count (CBC) test typically diagnoses a high white blood cell count. This test measures the number and types of cells in the blood, including white blood cells. Additional tests may be ordered to determine the underlying cause of the elevated count.
4. Are there any lifestyle changes that can help lower the high white blood cell count?
While lifestyle changes alone may not directly lower high white blood cell count, they can contribute to overall health and well-being. Maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress levels, and following specific recommendations a healthcare professional provides is important.
5. When should I see a doctor regarding a high white blood cell count?
If you have received blood test results indicating a high white blood cell count, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation. They can assess your symptoms, perform additional tests if necessary, and determine the underlying cause of the elevated count.
A high white blood cell count is usually not dangerous and can often be caused by various other factors. It is essential to begin treatment as quickly as possible when a person has an infection. This can help prevent further complications and help the body fight off the disease more effectively.