Table of Contents
- 1.) What do my white blood cells do?
- 2.) The different types of white blood cells & what causes elevated levels
- 3.) How to Troubleshoot and Lower High White Blood Cell Numbers
What does my high WBC count mean? What caused it? What can I do about it? These are all questions you might be asking. We’ll cover all of them in this post and i’ll give you some answers for what to do next.
- First, we’ll develop an understanding of what our white blood cells do and why they’re so important.
- Then we’ll go over what causes us to develop high levels of white blood cells.
- And finally, we’ll discuss different ways we can bring your elevated WBC count down to a normal range.
1.) What do my white blood cells do?
The purpose of your white blood cells is to support your bodies defense/detoxification system.
They are very important to your health even though they make up only about 1% of the blood in your system. (They share space with red blood cells, platelets, and plasma – which are far more abundant)
White blood cells specialize in attacking pathogens and keeping them from surviving in your body. Your white blood cells are also activated every time your body undergoes stress and inflammation. Stress does not just mean an injury, it can result from a wide variety of causes. This means that your white blood cells are constantly being made, activated for a specific purpose, then dying.
Your body is constantly making new cells, and during times of stress your body will produce far more white cells to deal with the threat. When the threat is high and/or constant, your body will respond by producing high levels of white blood cells.
2.) The different types of white blood cells & what causes elevated levels
There are three different types of white blood cells:
- lymphocytes (lymphs) usually increase in viral infections
- neutrophils primarily active in bacterial threat response
- eosinophils, primarily active in in allergic response.
I’ll quickly go over what it might mean to have elevated levels of these specific types of white blood cell. It is important to understand which white blood cells are more prominent in the body, as the more abundant cells will cause your WBC readings to be more drastic than the less abundant ones.
The three major types of lymphocyte are T cells, B cells and natural killer (NK) cells. They focus on cell immunity, creating anti-bodies against infection and fighting off viral infection. A high lymphocyte count is also called Lymphocytosis.
- Lymphocytosis occurs with a lymphocytes count higher than 3,000/microliter in adults. In children the threshold is higher, and might be considered with levels as high as 7,000 to 9,000 per microliter.
A high lymphocyte count might cause very few symptoms, or none at all. Levels may rise temporarily while recovering from an illness or an infection. These elevated lymphocyte levels are harmless and just your body doing what it can to get back to normal. But in other cases elevated lymphocyte levels can be a sign of something much more serious, for example:
- blood/lymph cancer
- autoimmune disorders
- chronic infection.
Your doctor must decide if this is a harmless, temporary situation, as can occur after an illness, or if it represents something more serious. Before deciding if a lymphocyte count is a cause for concern your doctor may need to perform additional tests.
There are many possible causes for an abnormally high neutrophil count.
- Neutrophils make up roughly 50-70% of white blood cells and specialize in removing excess substances from the blood. This could be unwanted bacteria, dead cells, metabolic waste or foreign substances. They protect the body by consuming these substances and then eliminating them.
The normal range in testing for neutrophils is 1500-8000. Anything above 8000 is considered elevated. But these numbers do vary from different types of tests so be sure to look at the “normal range” chart on your individual test. High results can result from relatively harmless things like:
- Sudden bacterial infection or
- Inflammation from injuries small or large
- Corticosteroid use
But also from more serious conditions like:
- Kidney failure
- Complications in pregnancy
- Myeloid metaplasia
Eosinophil are responsible for fighting off parasites and certain infections. They also assist mast cells with allergy and asthma bodily response mechanisms.
Eosinophils make up about 1-6% of your WBC (white blood cell) system. Increased levels of eosinophils that read higher than 500/microlitre is considered eosinophilia and is typically seen in:
- Parasitic infections in the intestines
- Vascular disease i.e. Arthritis
- malignant disease i.e. Hodgkin’s
- Skin diseases i.e dermatitis
- Addison’s disease
- Reflux esophagitis.
- Autoimmune disease
3.) How to Troubleshoot and Lower High White Blood Cell Numbers
At this point it would be a good idea to go see a hematologist/oncologist. Hematologists specialize in blood disorders and diseases. They’re a good next step in helping you find out what’s causing it. If the hematologist doesn’t find anything, that might mean there’s smaller factor(s) causing your condition. The causes are likely not serious and there are things you can do to improve the situation yourself.
Investigating and relieving non-serious elevated WBC levels yourself.
High white blood cell levels are strongly linked to both infection and inflammation. If you don’t have a disease or dangerous cause to your high white blood cell levels then it’s okay to just let them lower on their own. But you should also investigate the following questions below:
- Determine what’s causing the issue. Is it caused by internal or external wounding? Maybe you just have a cut. Even small cuts can raise WBC numbers to high levels. If so, be sure to address the injury by properly disinfecting it and applying bandages. If it’s internal inflammation you should get checked up for food allergies or internal injuries.
- Take rest. The body can easily become overworked and stressed, especially in our rapid pace culture. Stress and overexertion can quickly lead to high WBC. Most of us are in a habit of tension and overstimulation; which in itself can raise the inflammatory response and activate white blood cells. Make sure you are supplying your body and mind with adequate downtime. It is very important to rest both your body and mind. You can be laying in bed but still have your mind running at 100 miles an hour. In this situation you’re still going to be keeping your WBC levels high by keeping the body tensed up and not relaxed. The body perceives overthinking as a stress and stress elevated white blood cell counts.
- Investigate any drugs you are taking. As stated earlier, some drugs effect your WBC count. If you are taking prescription drugs of any kind it is recommended that you look up side effects, including effects on white blood cell counts. You might need to find an alternative medication.
- Think of any chronic infections you might have. An infection in any form can raise WBC levels, even if the infection isn’t very strong. Have you been experiencing fatigue or gastrointestinal discomfort? Maybe mild nasal congestion or postnasal drip?You might have a chronic low-level ear or sinus infection. If you’ve had recent dental work done you could have an infection from that. You might also be experiencing an allergic response to something in your environment. It could be environmental from your region or something more localized, like animal hair in your living space. There are many potential causes.
If you’re condition still isn’t resolved after finding no clear warning signs, then it might be a good idea to return to the doctor/oncologist. Many diseases and disorders can be asymptomatic and go unrecognized for years.