If you have recently visited your doctor's office, whether for a routine workup or because you are experiencing some kind of health issue, you might find yourself surprised with your white blood cell (WBC) counts and test results. The white blood cells are the part of your blood responsible for fighting infections and are an essential part of your immune system.
WBC counts are considered normal if they are at between 4,000 and 11,000 WBCs per microliter of blood. When your test results on your WBC counts are abnormal, you may wonder what this means and what can be done about it. Get to know more about what it means when you receive abnormal WBC count results. Then, you can be sure to take care of your health going forward to get your WBC count back on track.
What to Know When Your WBC Count Is Too High
When your WBC count is higher than 11,000 WBC/microliter, there are a few things that may be going on. The most common cause of elevated WBC counts is an infection. This can be a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection that your body is fighting off. Sometimes, you may have noticed symptoms of such an infection, while other times you might only find out when you have your blood drawn (though this is not nearly as likely).
When your WBC count is too high, another potential cause is leukemia. In certain forms of leukemia, the body produces an abnormally high number of WBCs. The problem is that these are not usually functioning WBCs as they are created by cells infected with cancer. This results in a weakened immune system which in turn, increases the risk for severe infections.
Treatments for a high WBC will depend on the cause. If you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics can help your immune system fight the infection and therefore, lower the WBC count. Alternatively, if leukemia is the culprit, leukapheresis is a treatment option. Leukapheresis involves drawing blood, removing the white blood cells in the laboratory, and then replacing the blood in the body.
What to Know When Your WBC Count Is Too Low
When your WBC count is too low, it means that your immune system is suppressed and you are more likely to develop an infection that your body is ill-equipped to fight. There are several reasons that this can occur in the body. Certain autoimmune disorders affect the WBCs in the body, damaging those cells or limiting their production. Some cancers can lower WBC counts. Additionally, viral infections like HIV and AIDS can cause a dramatic drop in WBC counts.
If a person's white blood cell count is too low, there are a few treatment options available. One option is taking medication that is designed to trigger the body to produce more WBCs. Alternatively, when a person is being treated for cancer and has a low WBC count, cancer treatments may need to be paused for the body to regenerate WBCs.
Now that you know more about what abnormal WBC counts mean and how they can be managed, you can be sure you get your WBC count back on track as soon as possible.