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Leukocytosis (High WBC Count) - Types, Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

HealthcareOnTime Team 2023-07-30 2023-08-01 3 Min Read
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  • Leukocytosis (High WBC Count)

    What is Leukocytosis?

    An increase in WBC count is called Leukocytosis, a high white blood cell count associated with various illnesses, such as inflammation, infections, immune system problems, and injury. It usually indicates that the immune system is fighting inflammation or infection. On the other hand, a elevated white blood cell count can signal a more dangerous condition, such as leukaemia.

    A complete blood count (or CBC) is routinely conducted to determine the total leukocyte count and rule out the possibility of Leukocytosis. Usually, treating the underlying illness lowers the white blood cell count. 

    Leukocytosis (High WBC Count)
    Leukocytosis, characterized by an excessively high white blood cell (leukocyte), is seen here in contrast to normal blood with a normal WBC count

    Types of Leukocytosis?

    Considering there are five distinct kinds of white blood cells (leukocytes), there are also five different types of Leukocytosis, based on which cell is affected:

    • Neutrophilia leukocytosis: A significant amount of neutrophils, the most abundant form of white blood cell, which assists in resolving infections and restoring broken tissues, causes Neutrophilic leukocytosis. 

    According to the National Library of Medicine, Neutrophils account for around 40% to 60% of total leukocyte measure, and neutrophilia is by far the most prevalent kind of leukocytosis.

    • Lymphocytosis: An abundance of lymphocytes characterises Lymphocytosis, the white blood cells that defend your lymphatic network.
    • Monocytosis: A substantial amount of monocytes, the white blood cells that stimulate immunological responses, cause monocytosis.
    • Eosinophilia: It is characterised by elevated amounts of eosinophils, the white blood cells which help in the fight against diseases and inflammation. Eosinophilia is a prevalent condition frequently associated with allergies, parasite infections, or autoimmune conditions. Eosinophils account for about 1-4% of an individual's total leukocyte count.
    • Basophilia: It is the most uncommon type of Leukocytosis, is characterised by increased basophils, the white blood cells that fight infections caused by parasites, prevent blood from clotting and respond to allergic sensitivities.

    Each type of Leukocytosis is associated with a variety of health problems:

    • Neutropenia: infection and inflammation
    • Leukaemia and viral infections are examples of Lymphocytosis.
    • Cancer, along with various sorts of infections, are examples of monocytosis.
    • Parasites and allergies in eosinophilia
    • Leukaemia caused by basophilia

    What does a High White Blood Cell Count Mean?

    WBC is a crucial part of your body's defences. They originate in the bone marrow and protect your body from diseases and infections. When you have more white blood cells than you need, it usually suggests a condition like inflammation or infection. A high WBC count may suggest certain blood malignancies or bone marrow abnormalities in rare cases.

    What is considered a High White Blood Cell Count?

    Though it varies from person to person, a high WBC count, also known as Leukocytosis, is generally defined as anything exceeding 11,000 cells per μl bloodstream in an adult. This has connections to:

    • Infection
    • Bone marrow failure
    • Medications
    • Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases
    • Leukaemia
    • Allergies
    • Tuberculosis
    • Whooping cough
    • Myelofibrosis
    • Stress
    • Smoking

    In most cases, no particular signs are linked with a high white blood cell count, though indications of the core medical disease may emerge. However, in extreme circumstances, like when Leukocytosis develops due to a bone marrow problem, complications directly related to a high white blood cell count might appear.

    What are the Signs and Symptoms of Leukocytosis?

    Several leukocytosis symptoms may point to a medical condition that is more serious, such as malignancy or leukaemia. Common red flags include

    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Pain
    • Hard breathing
    • Wheezing
    • Sweating at night
    • Weight reduction unexpectedly
    • Rash

    A low platelet count, Thrombocytopenia or an acute form of leukaemia can cause easy bruising. Extremely raised white blood cells might thicken the blood and reduce blood flow in acute leukaemia. Hyperviscosity syndrome may arise as a result. This disorder can lead to major health issues like internal bleeding, stroke, or eyesight loss.

    What Causes Leukocytosis? 

    Inflammation or infection are the most common causes of Leukocytosis. Other causes of a high WBC count involve the following:

    • Inflammation or Infection: The body's response to infections, such as bacterial, viral, or fungal, leads to an increase in WBCs to fight off pathogens.
    • Burns: Severe burns can cause a release of cytokines and growth factors, leading to leukocytosis.
    • Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can cause chronic inflammation, resulting in elevated WBCs.
    • Thyroid Issues: Certain thyroid disorders can impact WBC production and lead to leukocytosis.
    • Dental Infections: Untreated cavities or oral infections may cause localized inflammation, affecting WBC counts.
    • Medications: Some drugs like corticosteroids, lithium, and beta-agonists can induce leukocytosis as a side effect.
    • Allergic Reactions: Severe allergies or anaphylaxis can cause a temporary increase in WBCs.
    • Splenectomy: Surgical removal of the spleen can lead to leukocytosis, as the spleen plays a role in regulating WBC levels.
    • Smoking: Chronic smoking can lead to leukocytosis due to the irritants in tobacco smoke.
    • Obesity: Some studies suggest a link between obesity and increased WBC counts.

    Less Common Causes of Leukocytosis:

    • Leukemia: Leukemia type of blood cancer where abnormal WBCs multiply uncontrollably in the bone marrow.
    • Lymphoma: A cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and can involve increased WBCs.
    • Bone Marrow Disorders: Conditions like myelofibrosis or polycythemia vera can affect the bone marrow's ability to produce WBCs.

    How is Leukocytosis Diagnosed?

    Your healthcare provider will conduct a thorough examination and inquire about your high white blood cell count symptoms and medical background to assess the situation. Extremely high WBC counts, exceeding 100,000, are typically associated with conditions such as leukemia or other types of blood and bone marrow cancers.

    Three kinds of tests are often performed to identify the reason for increase in WBC:

    • Complete Blood Count (CBC) with TLC: CBC Test is the most typical test when your WBC count exceeds usual. This test uses an apparatus that measures the percentage of each type of WBC in blood. Elevated WBC count, as indicated by the TLC Blood Test (Total Leukocyte Count) on the CBC report, is a hallmark of leukocytosis.
    • Peripheral blood smear: If you have Lymphocytosis or neutrophilia, your healthcare provider may order this test to examine the shape and maturity of every blood cell. If you have immature WBCs, a bone marrow biopsy may be required.
    • Biopsy of the bone marrow: This type of test serves to distinguish leukaemia from other causes. It entails extracting a sample of the bone marrow — the connective tissue that creates WBCs — using an instrument from the center of a bone and examining it through a microscope. This helps establish whether there are aberrant cells or a problem with WBC generation in the bone marrow.
    • Other Blood Tests: Additional blood tests may be ordered to identify the underlying cause of leukocytosis. These tests may include inflammatory markers, blood cultures to check for infections, and tests to assess organ function and other related parameters.

    Depending on the region of inflammation and the kind of illness, the signs and symptoms of infection and autoimmune disorders will differ.

    How is Leukocytosis Treated?

    High white blood cell count treatment differs based on what created the illness in the very first place. For instance, your doctor will prescribe medicines if you suffer from a elevated white blood cell count due to a bacterial disease. You will likely require antihistamines if your Leukocytosis results from an allergic reaction. Other typical therapies for a high white blood cell count involve:

    •  Medications are used to treat anxiety or stress
    •  Medications that reduce inflammation
    • Asthma inhalers
    •  IV fluids to enhance blood flow
    • Leukapheresis is a technique that quickly reduces the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream
    • Chemotherapy and stem cell transplants are all cancer treatments

    Treatment for high white blood cell count requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes, monitors blood cell levels, and incorporates lifestyle modifications for long-term health and well-being. The white blood cell count might sometimes return to normal without leukocytosis treatment. Whereas Effective treatment strategies aim to restore balance to the immune system and mitigate the risks associated with leukocytosis.

    Leukocytosis in Pregnancy

    During pregnancy, the bottom range of the acceptable range is roughly 6,000 cells per μl, and the upper limit approximates 17,000 cells per μl. The stress of pregnancy produces this increase in white blood cells.

    The white blood cell count during birth can range from 9,000 to 25,000 white blood cells per μl of blood. The WBC count usually returns to its usual level four weeks following birth.

    Did you know: 

    Newborns tend to have a higher count, which decreases as they grow, and pregnant women may have slightly higher counts as well

    Note From HealthcareOnTime

    Leukocytosis is a natural immunological response that protects against illnesses and infections, so it isn't necessarily a cause for concern. Furthermore, numerous other variables can contribute to it, such as pregnancy, stress, or strenuous activity. However, it may be a sign of something more serious, such as leukaemia or cancer, so it's critical to consult your doctor and take a CBC test to discover the reason and determine the course of treatment. HealthcareOnTime can be your go-to solution for availing of CBC lab tests at-home. Being a Thyrocare partner, we at HealthcareOnTime strive to make your blood test and other complete body health checkup experiences as easy, quick, seamless, and hassle-free as possible.


    Ref Links: 

    • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560882/
    • https://www.healthline.com/health/leukocytosis
    • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/17704-high-white-blood-cell-count
    • https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/white-blood-count-wbc

    FAQs Around Leukocytosis

    What Happens if White Blood Cells Are High?

    When you have white blood cells in more than the usual range, it usually suggests inflammation or infection.

    How to Decrease White Blood Cells with Food?

    Do not know how to reduce WBC count naturally with food. Include the subsequent foods in your diet: C vitamin. Consuming Vitamin C will aid in regulating the body's white blood cell counts. Vitamin C-rich fruits include oranges, lemons, limes, berries, papayas, and guavas.

    How Much TLC is Dangerous?

    A value of more than 11,000/microliter is dangerous.

    When Should I Be Worried About High WBC?

    WBC count of 50,000 to 100,000 per microliter in the blood may indicate a serious organ rejection, infection, or solid tumor.

    Is Leukocytosis a Cancer?

    No. Leukocytosis can arise from a variety of causes. A high WBC is only seldom an indication of certain blood malignancies.

    Do Antibiotics Increase WBC Count?

    Yes. WBC counts can rise when taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

    Can Viral Fever Reduce Platelet Count?

    High viral fever combined with thrombocytopenia syndrome is a medical condition that causes a drop in platelet counts.


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