White blood cells circulate around the blood and help the immune system fight off infections.
Stem cells in the bone marrow are responsible for producing white blood cells. The bone marrow then stores an estimated 8090% of white blood cells.
When an infection or inflammatory condition occurs, the body releases white blood cells to help fight the infection.
In this article, learn more about white blood cells, including the types and their functions.
Health professionals have identified three main categories of white blood cell: granulocytes, lymphocytes, and monocytes. The sections below discuss these in more detail.
Granulocytes are white blood cells that have small granules containing proteins. There are three types of granulocyte cells:
These white blood cells include the following:
Monocytes are white blood cells that make up around 28% of the total white blood cell count in the body. These are present when the body fights off chronic infections.
They target and destroy cells that cause infections.
According to an article in American Family Physician, the normal range (per cubic millimeter) of white blood cells based on age are:
The normal range for a pregnant women in the 3rd trimester is 5,80013,200 per cubic millimeter.
If a person's 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:
Surgical procedures that cause cells to die can also cause a high white blood cell count.
If a person's body is producing fewer white blood cells than it should be, doctors call this leukopenia.
Conditions that can cause leukopenia include:
Doctors may continually monitor white blood cells to determine if the body is mounting an immune response to an infection.
During a physical examination, a doctor may perform a white blood cell count (WBC) using a blood test. They may order a WBC to test for, or rule out, other conditions that may affect white blood cells.
Although a blood sample is the most common approach to testing for white blood cells, a doctor can also test other body fluids, such as cerebrospinal fluid, for the presence of white blood cells.
A doctor may order a WBC to:
The following are conditions that may impact how many white blood cells a person has in their body.
This is a condition wherein a person's body destroys stem cells in the bone marrow.
Stem cells are responsible for creating new white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
This is an autoimmune condition wherein the body's immune system destroys healthy cells, including red and white blood cells.
HIV can decrease the amount of white blood cells called CD4 T cells. When a person's T cell count drops below 200, a doctor might diagnose AIDS.
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia occurs when white blood cells rapidly produce and are not able to fight infections.
This condition causes a person's body to overproduce some types of blood cells. It causes scarring in a person's bone marrow.
Whether or not a person needs to alter their white blood cell count will depend on the diagnosis.
If they have a medical condition that affects the number of white blood cells in their body, they should talk to a doctor about the goals for their white blood cell count, depending on their current treatment plan.
A person can lower their white blood cell count by taking medications such as hydroxyurea or undergoing leukapheresis, which is a procedure that uses a machine to filter the blood.
If a person's white blood cell count is low due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, a doctor may recommend avoiding foods that contain bacteria. This may help prevent infections.
A person can also take colony-stimulating factors. These may help prevent infection and increase the number of white blood cells in the body.
White blood cells are an important part of the body's immune system response. There are different types of white blood cell, and each has a specific function in the body.
Certain conditions can affect the number of white blood cells in the body, causing them to be too high or too low.
If necessary, a person can take medication to alter their white blood cell count.
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White blood cells: Function, ranges, types, and more - Medical News Today
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