Whenever a germ or infection enters the body, the white blood cells snap to attention and race toward the scene of the crime. The white blood cells are continually on the lookout for signs of disease. When a germ does appear, the white blood cells have a variety of ways by which they can attack. Some will produce protective antibodies that will overpower the germ. Others will surround and devour the bacteria.
There are different kinds of white blood cells, and they each perform very important functions in the immune system. The number and type of leukocytes present in the body are measured using a blood test called the white blood cell count.
The most numerous white blood cells in the body are the neutrophils. According to the University of Virginia, neutrophils comprise 40 to 75 percent of all white blood cells. In response to an infection, neutrophils are released from the bone marrow and sent to the site of infection. Within 12 hours, the neutrophils have arrived at the infected tissue. These cells destroy the offending organism by engulfing the germ (a process called phagocytosis), and then releasing deadly enzymes that destroy the bacteria.
Less than two to four percent of all white blood cells are eosinophils, according to Southern Illinois University. Eosinophils are named after a stain called eosin because both appear very pink in color when seen under the microscope. Eosinophils are around the same size as neutrophils, but instead of having multiple nuclei like the neutrophils, the esosinophil has a two-lobed nucleus. Eosinophils are seen in patients with allergies or parasitic infections.
Basophils can be recognized by examination under the microscope. These cells stain dark blue under the microscope. Basophils, according to the University of Virginia, have the ability to move themselves and use phagocytosis to destroy harmful organisms. Basophils make up less than one percent of the total white blood cell count.
The biggest white blood cell is the monocyte. This cell only constitutes five percent of the total leukocyte population. These cells use phagocytosis to destroy germs. Monocytes can be found in most tissues of the body, and their number can increase when the tissue becomes inflamed (a sign of infection or injury).
T-lymphocytes can be divided into two different classes of cells, based on the role the cells play in the immune system. Helper T cells control the immune defense, according to NobelPrize.org. When the helper T cell is presented with a foreign organism, it interacts with other cells in the immune system and helps them become more effective in killing the organism. Without T helper cells, the body's immune system begins to malfunction.
The second division of T-lymphocytes is the killer T cell. These cells, as stated by NobelPrize.org, have been engineered to attack viruses and sometimes bacteria. Killer T cells can recognize cells that have become infected with the virus and kill those infected cells, before the disease has a chance to spread.
Along with T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes comprise 20 to 45 percent of all white blood cells, according to the University of Virginia. NobelPrize.org states that when a B-lymphocyte is exposed to a harmful organism, it begins to clone itself very rapidly. These clones of the original B cell can either produce small attack particles that help kill the germ (antibodies), or become memory B cells. Memory cells allow the immune system to remember the infective agent, so that if there is another infection with the same organism, the body will be able to respond faster.
What is a Normal White Blood Cell Count
The normal white blood cell count range is 4300-10,800 white blood cells per cubic millimeter (cmm) of blood. In other words, it is 4.3 * 10 9 to 10.8 * 109cells per liter. The normal white blood cell level can be around 7000 WBCs per cubic millimeter of blood. Normally, there are
- Neutrophils: 50-70 %
- Lymphocytes: 25-35 %
- Monocytes: 4-6 %
- Eosinophils: 1-3 %
- Basophils: 0.4-1 %
per cubic millimeter of blood. A leucocyte count around 3000-5000 is called leukopenia while in leukocytosis, it can be around 11000-17000. Some diagnostics usually round this off to 5.0 to 10.0 x 109 cells per liter. This means that a measurement that is slightly under or over the range is still considered to be normal.
High white blood cell count is an increase in disease-fighting cells (leukocytes) circulating in your blood. The threshold for high white blood cell count varies based on medical conditions, sex and age. If the numbers of leukocytes are more than 10,500 per-�liter of blood that generally considered a high white blood cell counts. High white blood cell count in urine may also mean a number of conditions like a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, kidney infection, kidney stones or tumor. High white blood cell count in children may indicate whooping cough, bacterial or viral infection, measles, allergy or leukemia.
An elevated white blood cell count can arise due to many medical reasons. High white blood cell count usually means there is increase in production of these cells to fight a possible infection. It may also means it is a reaction to a drug that helps in improving the WBC production. Bone marrow diseases may also cause high white blood cells count. Or it may also be due to an immune system disorder that leads to increase in white blood cell production.
The most common cause of elevated white blood cell count is due to infection. When the white blood cell count is elevated in older individuals for prolonged periods and no infection is present, this can mean an increased risk for cancer.
Any infection, inflammation or allergy can serve as an indicator of high white blood cell count symptoms. Bacterial infections, leukemia, trauma, inflammation, or stress are also high white blood cell count symptoms. An unusually high white blood cell count can indicate an infection, hypersplenism, bone marrow depression (drugs, radiation or heavy metal poisoning) or primary bone marrow disorders such as leukemia.
There are specific causes that may be lead to high white blood cell count. This may mean the following factors causes high blood cell count:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Allergic reaction
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia
- Drugs, such as corticosteroids and epinephrine
- Hairy cell leukemia
- Hemolytic anemia, which includes sickle cell anemia
- Hodgkin�s disease and non-Hodgkin�s lymphoma
- Infection such sinus infection or bladder infection
- Inflammation due to a burn, skin rash or other tissue damage
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Other bacterial infections
- Other viral infections
- Physical or emotional stress
- Polycythemia vera
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Surgical spleen removal
- Whooping cough
A low white blood cell count is a decreased number of white blood cells (leukocytes) in the blood. A low WBC count is referred to medically as leukopenia. When you have a low white blood cell count you may be immunosuppressed, which means that you are more vulnerable to potentially serious infections that do not go away or are hard to treat.
A low WBC count is usually discovered by your physician or health care provider during routine testing or through the course of diagnosis and treatment for an underlying disease, disorder or condition. A low WBC count can be serious because it increases your risk of developing a potentially life-threatening infection.
If you have a low WBC count, you will probably be advised by your medical professional to avoid situations that expose you to infectious and contagious diseases. Seek prompt medical care if you have a low WBC count and have signs of an infection, such as a fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, or skin lesions.
A low WBC count may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms can include:
- Recurrent infections that are difficult to treat
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms that might indicate a low WBC count can be serious because it increases your risk of developing a potentially life-threatening infection. Seek prompt medical care if you have a low white blood count and have signs of an infection, such as a fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, or skin lesions.
A low WBC count can be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions, as well as certain medications. In some cases a cause cannot be found. It often linked to problems with the bone marrow and the inability to make enough white blood cells. Autoimmune diseases that attack your white blood cells can also lead to a low WBC count. Several different prescribed drugs, including chemotherapy, are known to decrease WBC production or destroy WBCs.
A low white blood cell count can be the result of infection, make an individual more susceptible to outside infections or allow multiplication of organisms within the body which would normally kept in check by a healthy immune system. so when white blood cell counts drop as a result of chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or certain types of cancer, it puts the patient in a vulnerable position. Without adequate protection from these disease-fighting cells, viruses and bacteria suddenly become much more serious threats.
A low WBC count can be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions, as well as certain medications. In some cases a cause cannot be found. A low WBC count can be due to a variety of different conditions that either destroy WBCs or inhibit their production in the bone marrow. These include:
- Aplastic anemia (condition in which the bone marrow makes insufficient blood cells)
- Bone marrow disease (myelodysplastic syndromes)
- Liver disease (hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure)
- Overactive spleen that destroys white blood cells
- Radiation exposure
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)
- Viral infection that affects bone marrow function
- Vitamin deficiency
- Widespread infection that depletes white blood cells
- Medications that can reduce the number of white blood cells
Low white blood cell counts can be caused by a variety of factors, so get it checked out by your doctor. If, for example, you are receiving chemotherapy, your doctor can use drugs such as Neulasta to increase wbc counts.
Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (however, if your white blood cell counts are lower than 1 k/�l , check with your doctor who may recommend avoiding raw foods). Get plenty of rest. Some extra vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene may be helpful, but don�t overdo it with the supplements, as this may be dangerous. (i.e. too much Airborne could give you dangerous levels of vitamin A).