White Blood Cell Count and Test Result

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White blood cells (WBC), also called leukocytes, are cells that exist in the blood and tissues. They help protect against infections and also have a role in inflammation, allergic responses, and protecting against cancer.

WBC count is a test included in a complete blood count (CBC), which is often used in the general evaluation of a person’s health. A health practitioner will consider the results of a WBC count together with results from other components of the CBC as well as a number of other factors.

What does the test result mean?

A high white blood cell count, called leukocytosis, may result from a number of conditions and diseases. Some examples include:

  • Infections, most commonly caused by bacteria and some viruses
  • Leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms
  • Inflammation or inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Conditions that result in tissue death (necrosis) such as trauma, burns, surgery or heart attack
  • Allergic responses

A low white blood cell count, called leukopenia, can result from conditions such as:

  • Bone marrow damage, such as toxin, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Bone marrow disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome, vitamin B12 or folate deficiency.
  • Lymphoma or other cancer that has spread to the bone marrow.
  • Autoimmune disorders—the body attacks and destroys its own WBCs (e.g., lupus)
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Overwhelming infections (e.g., sepsis)
  • Diseases of the immune system, such as HIV.

 

Keywords: white blood cell count; WBC count

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