High White Blood Cell Count During Pregnancy
White blood cell levels increase significantly during healthy pregnancy because of the physical stress the body endures during this time. The levels start to rise within the first trimester and continue to rise into the third trimester.
During labor and in the hours following delivery, white blood cell levels may surge again, to between white blood cells in every microliter of blood. This is in response to the physical stresses and trauma of labor.
Within 6â8 weeks of delivery, white blood cells return to their normal levels.
High White Blood Cell Count What You Should Know
White blood cells play an important role in your bodys immune system, searching the blood for invading viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When a foreign virus or bacteria enters your blood, the white blood cell , recognizes and destroys the invading particle before it can cause disease. There are several different types of white blood cells, each with their own function. Some directly destroy the foreign bacteria, while others attack your own cells that are infected by viruses. Other types of white blood cells can even play a role in allergic reactions!
Elevated White Blood Cell Count: Causes Treatments And More
Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer Health
Doctors test for white blood cell count to measure the number of white blood cells in your body. This blood test is usually done as part of a standard complete blood count test. White blood cells are also called leukocytes and they are part of your immune system. They attack germs, bacteria, and microbes that can cause infections or inflammation. White blood cells can be divided into five main types: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils.
Usually, blood test results show elevated white blood cell count if you are fighting an infection or have an inflammatory condition. Pregnancy can also cause a high or slightly elevated white blood cell count. However, other factors like stress, smoking, or allergies can elevate your white blood cell count. Doctors also check for abnormal WBC levels if they suspect an autoimmune condition, blood disorder, or problem with your immune system.
There are not always obvious symptoms if your white blood cell count is outside the normal range. A high white blood cell count could be accompanied by symptoms of a viral infection or allergic reaction like fatigue, runny nose, coughing, or digestive upset. There are also some medical conditions that cause your white blood cell count to drop lower than normal.
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What Are The Risks Of Having Elevated White Blood Cell Count
On its own, leukocytosis is usually not harmful. An abnormally raised white blood cell count is not a disease condition, but can point to another underlying cause such as infection, cancer or autoimmune disorders.
An abnormally high white blood cell count should always be considered for its possible causes. Not every elevated white cell count is a problem, since it may represent a normal finding in response to an infection, which settles with time. However, if the elevated count persists then a doctor may decide that it requires further investigation to rule out other undiagnosed conditions.
Since leukopenia is itself asymptomatic and chronic infection may go unrecognised because of failure to mount a symptomatic response, immunocompromised patients will usually have a periodic blood count to monitor their white cell count along with other regular health checks.
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What Are The Causes Of Elevated White Blood Cell Count
InfectionAs infection-causing bacteria or viruses multiply in the blood, your bone marrow produces more white blood cells to fight off the infection. Infection can also lead to inflammation, which can in turn cause the number of white blood cells to increase.
Smoking or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Essentially, COPD means that you have a lung and airway disease like emphysema or chronic bronchitis that blocks proper airflow. It is commonly caused by cigarette smoking, which results in inflammation in the lungs and air passages. As you gain more inflammation in your lungs and airways, your body will produce more white blood cells to fight it off.
LeukemiaLeukemia is a type of cancer that dramatically increases your number of white blood cells. Leukemic white blood cells are often non-functional, which may increase the risk of infection in these cancer patients.
Immune system disordersSome auto-immune disorders like Crohns or Graves disease can elevate your white blood cell levels. If you have one of these conditions, your doctor should monitor your white blood cell levels.
StressFinally, emotional or physical stress can also cause elevated white blood cell counts. The good news is that white blood cell levels will return to normal after the stress is gone.
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Viral Or Bacterial Infection
The most common cause of higher than normal white blood cells is because your body is fighting an infection. The presence of germs, bacteria, or viruses signal to your body to produce more WBCs to destroy the pathogens.
For example, the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that higher than normal levels of lymphocytes are seen in most viral and bacterial respiratory infections.5
The Journal of Cytology also reported that white blood cell count, especially neutrophils, becomes elevated in fungal infections. For example, if a person shows signs of a candida infection, their WBC count will usually be above the normal range.6
Stress Drug Reactions And Smoking
Severe physical or emotional stress can also cause an increased WBC count, including stress caused by overexertion and anxiety. Based on a 2012 research review published in the journal “Exercise Immunology Review,” exercise and stress can increase levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol and other hormones 1. These hormones are thought to be responsible for recruiting WBCs into the bloodstream.
Some medications, including certain drugs used to treat inflammation, mental health conditions and cancer, can also lead to increased WBC release into the blood. For example, a study in the December 2001 issue of the “British Journal of Haematology” suggests that lithium — a drug used to treat bipolar disorder — signals the immune system to produce more WBCs. Smoking can also affect the bone marrow and cause increased release of certain types of WBCs, potentially increasing the white blood cell count.
- Severe physical or emotional stress can also cause an increased WBC count, including stress caused by overexertion and anxiety.
- Some medications, including certain drugs used to treat inflammation, mental health conditions and cancer, can also lead to increased WBC release into the blood.
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Preparing For White Blood Cell Count Test
With many medical tests, there are various things you have to do to prepare such as fasting or drinking a special liquid to make certain things show up under a microscope or X-ray. In the case of a white blood cell count test, there isnt much to do. You arrange for the test, and you have your blood drawn. You should advise your doctor about what medications that you are taking in case they interfere with the tests results. Medications that may alter the results of a white blood cell count include:
Wont By Doctor Treat The Problem If Eosinophils Are Elevated
Not necessarily. First you medical doctor may be using the very conservative conventional reference range, which misses everyone in the 3-7% range. Even if you are over 7% the labs may still be ignored.
If eosinophils are elevated then either allergies or parasites should be investigated. Often the conventional tests for these are not adequate. Typically some IgE and maybe IgG tests are run for environmental and food allergies. These tests are not perfect and allergenic reactions to foods are easily missed.
Then there are microscopic exams for parasites. Stool tests for parasites are very unreliable. Just because you submitted a stool sample and it came back negative for parasites that doesnt mean you dont have parasites. All it means is that they didnt see any parasites in that particular sample. A comprehensive functional stool tests for a lab such as diagnostechs is much better and includes markers such as saliva antibodies to catch parasites that may otherwise be missed visually.
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High White Blood Cell Count : Meaning Causes Ranges
White blood cells, or leukocytes, are the cells responsible for protecting the body against infection by viruses, parasites, fungi, bacteria and other invading organisms.In the body tissues and in the bloodstream, white blood cells identify and destroy pathogens .
Although white blood cells are crucial for the bodys immune response, they normally make up around only 0.2% of the total blood cells. An elevated white blood cell count, also called leukocytosis, can indicate a range of health problems such as infection or a blood or bone marrow disorder.
What Is The Outlook For Eosinophilia
Treating the cause of high eosinophil counts affects the outcome. In more serious conditions, outcomes also depend on the extent of target organ and how the person responds to treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/15/2018.
- Fulkerson PC, Rothenberg ME. Targeting Eosinophils in Allergy, Inflammation and Beyond. Nature reviews Drug discovery. 2013 12:10.1038/nrd3838. doi:10.1038/nrd3838.
- Common Laboratory Tests. In: LeBlond RF, Brown DD, Suneja M, Szot JF. LeBlond R.F., Brown D.D., Suneja M, Szot J.F. Eds. Richard F. LeBlond, et al.eds. DeGowinâs Diagnostic Examination, 10e New York, NY: McGraw-Hill 2014.
- Merck Manual Professional Version. Eosinophilia. Accessed 3/2/2018.
- American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders. What is an eosinophil-associated disease? Accessed 3/2/2018.
- Hsieh, Fred H Eosinophilia and the Hypereosinophilic Syndrome. In: _eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: _Chichester. doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002155.pub2
- Kovalszki A, Weller PF. Eosinophilia. Primary care. 2016 43:607-617. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2016.07.010.
- Rothenberg ME. Eosinophilia. N Engl J Med. 1998 338:1592-600.
- Butt, N. M., Lambert, J., Ali, S., Beer, P. A., Cross, N. C. P., Duncombe, A., Ewing, J., Harrison, C. N., Knapper, S., McLornan, D., Mead, A. J., Radia, D., Bain, B. J. and the British Committee for Standards in Haematology , Guideline for the investigation and management of eosinophilia. Br J Haematol, 176: 553â572. doi:10.1111/bjh.14488
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My Eosinophils Are Optimally Low Does That Mean I Dont Have Allergies Or Parasites
This is just one marker. Allergies and parasites do not always cause an increase in eosinophils. If other symptoms/labs indicate allergies or parasites the its best to pursue a course of treatment based on that. These problems can not be ruled out based on normal eosinophils.
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Production Maturation And Survival Of Leukocytes
Common progenitor cells, referred to as stem cells, are located in the bone marrow and give rise to erythroblasts, myeloblasts and megakaryoblasts. Three quarters of the nucleated cells in the bone marrow are committed to the production of leukocytes. These stem cells proliferate and differentiate into granulocytes , monocytes and lymphocytes, which together comprise the absolute white blood cell count. Approximately 1.6 billion granulocytes per kg of body weight are produced each day, and 50 to 75 percent of these cells are neutrophils.2 An abnormal elevation in the neutrophil count occurs much more commonly than an increase in eosinophils or basophils.
The maturation of white blood cells in the bone marrow and their release into the circulation are influenced by colony-stimulating factors, interleukins, tumor necrosis factor and complement components.3 Approximately 90 percent of white blood cells remain in storage in the bone marrow, 2 to 3 percent are circulating and 7 to 8 percent are located in tissue compartments.
The cells within the bone marrow compartment are classified into two populations: those that are in the process of DNA synthesis and maturation and those that are in a storage phase awaiting release into the circulating pool. The storage of maturing cells allows for rapid response to the demand for increased white blood cells, with a two- to threefold increase in circulating leukocytes possible in just four to five hours.
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High White Blood Cell Count
If a persons body is producing more white blood cells than it should be, doctors call this leukocytosis.
A high white blood cell count may indicate the following medical conditions:
- allergic responses, such as due to an asthma attack
- those that may cause cells to die, such as burns, heart attack, and trauma
- inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or vasculitis
- infections, such as with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites
Surgical procedures that cause cells to die can also cause a high white blood cell count.
Emotional Or Physical Stress
Emotional or physical stress can cause inflammatory responses in your body that can result in high WBC and high neutrophils.
A study published in the journal Industrial Health found a relationship between elevated white blood cell levels and stress at work. A high neutrophil count was also connected to high levels of cholesterol and fatigue. The overall result was an increase in low-grade inflammation.13
Other scientific studies have shown a connection between high leukocyte count and atherosclerosis a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Elevated WBC count can increase a persons risk of stroke and heart attack.14
Some ways to reduce stress and look after the health of your heart is to enjoy a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise.
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When Is It Ordered
A WBC count is normally ordered as part of the complete blood count , which may be performed when you have a routine health examination. The test may be done when you have general signs and symptoms of an infection and/or inflammation, such as:
- Fever, chills
- Leukemia: Bone marrow biopsy, immunophenotyping , chromosome analysis
Normal White Blood Cells Count
There are different types of white blood cells, but are divided into two main categories Granulocyte and Agranulocytes. Granulocytes are a combination of three types of white cells, including basophils, neutrophils, and eosinophils, all of which help destroy invading microorganisms. They have tiny granules that contain special enzymes. These enzymes digest invading microorganisms and keep them from causing an infection.On the other hand, agranulocytes include lymphocytes and monocytes. Monocytes are the white blood cells responsible for recognizing and marking invading germs, whereas lymphocytes attack those germs marked by monocytes.
Your blood test will measure the number of all these cells. Normally, your white blood cells are between 3,700 and 10,500. You may notice a change in these numbers due to stress, exercise, and disease. Before asking the question, what causes high white blood cell count, you need to learn about the normal values of several specific white blood cells.
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Is There Anything Else I Should Know
Intense exercise or severe emotional or physical stress can increase a WBC count, but the test is not used to evaluate these conditions. Pregnancy in the final month and labor may also be associated with increased WBC levels.
In the U.S. population, WBC counts are related to ones age, sex, ethnicity, and smoking status. It is not uncommon for the elderly to fail to develop high WBC count as a response to infection.
There are many types of medications that cause both increased and decreased WBC counts.
High White Blood Cell Count Symptoms
Raised white blood cell count is itself asymptomatic and therefore any associated features, if present, will typically be associated with the underlying cause. For example, a leukocytosis caused by leukemia may be accompanied by fatigue, general malaise and easy bruising.
There are no symptoms that can reliably indicate the presence of a raised white cell count. Doctors will usually consider carrying out an investigation to include the blood count if the symptoms described by a patient suggest that a blood count could be helpful to make a diagnosis.
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Problems Affecting White Blood Cells
Your white blood cell count can be low for a number of reasons. This includes when something is destroying the cells more quickly than the body can replenish them. Or when the bone marrow stops making enough white blood cells to keep you healthy. When your white blood cell count is low, you are at great risk for any illness or infection, which can spiral into a serious health threat.
Your healthcare provider can do a blood test to see whether your white blood cell count is normal. If your count is too low or too high, you may have a white blood cell disorder.
A number of diseases and conditions may affect white blood cell levels:
Conditions such as extreme physical stress caused by an injury or emotional stress can also trigger high white blood cell levels. So can inflammation, labor or the end of pregnancy, smoking, or even extreme exercise.
Too Many White Blood Cells
While having an elevated or abnormally high white blood cell count does not necessarily indicate leukemia, the source of the condition will need to be identified if it is found to exceed the levels and duration of a normal immune response to an infection.
The main causes of elevated white blood cells include:
- To fight a viral, fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infection
- A negative reaction to a drug that triggers an immune and white blood cell response
- Disease or malfunction that causes the bone marrow to overproduce white blood cells
- Disease or malfunction in the immune system that triggers an overproduction of white blood cells
When a high white blood cell count is not caused by general infections and immune system malfunctions or responses, it may be an indication of a more specific issue or condition, such as:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Stress, such as severe emotional or physical stress
- Whooping cough
Monocytes largest of the white blood cells, have the exclusive ability to identify and engulf foreign particles
Neutrophils attach to the walls of healthy blood vessels in order to prevent access of bacteria and infections through cuts or wounds
Lymphocytes responsible for producing antibodies, lymphocytes also create immunity by storing a memory of the immune response once an illness or infection has been effectively targeted.
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