You might have heard the term WBC count or, normal white blood cell count casually used in conversations every day. But, do you really know what it means? A WBC or white blood cell count is a medical test that measures the number of white blood cells in your body. Usually, it is a part of a complete blood count (CBC).
There are a variety of white blood cells in your body and bloodstream. And, each is present in a fixed percentage. However, at times, your WBC count can fall or rise out of the normal range. And, that can be a major cause for concern.
Having a lower or higher WBC count may indicate an underlying condition. It can detect hidden infections within your body and even serious autoimmune conditions, blood disorders, immune deficiencies, etc. A WBC count can also help in judging the effectiveness of chemo or radiation therapy in people diagnosed with cancer.
In this article, we have covered everything you need to know about a normal WBC count or normal white blood cell count. Read on!
Types of WBC count
WBC’s, medically known as leukocytes, are an essential part of the body’s immune response system. White blood cells help to protect the immune system by fighting infections caused by bacteria, germs, and viruses that invade the body.
White blood cells can be found in the bone marrow but they circulate throughout the body’s bloodstream. There are five primary types of white blood cells found in the bloodstream:
Now that we’ve understood the basic structure of a normal WBC count or normal white blood cell count, let us look at what constitutes a normal WBC count.
Normal WBC count
Newborn babies are said to be born with a much higher than normal WBC count. However, it eventually evens out as they grow and become older. According to reports published by the University of Rochester Medical Centre (UMRC), the normal ranges of WBCs per microliter of blood are:
- Infants: 9,000 to 30,000 per mcL of blood
- Children under two: 6,200 to 17000 per mcL of blood
- Children over two and adults: 5000 to 10,000 per mcL of blood
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), the normal percentages of the types of WBCs in an overall count are usually in the following ranges:
- Neutrophil: 55 to 73 percent of overall WBC count
- Lymphocyte: 20 to 40 percent of overall WBC count
- Monocyte: 2 to 8 percent of overall WBC count
- Eosinophil: 1 to 4 percent of overall WBC count
- Basophil: 0.5 to 1 percent of overall WBC count
As we said, higher or lower (abnormal) numbers of WBCs can be an indicator of any underlying medical condition.
Symptoms of an abnormal WBC count
When your normal WBC count drops or rises, your body sends you signals through physical symptoms. The symptoms of a low white blood cell count include:
- Body aches
However, it is always advisable to go to a doctor and get a CBC count test done.
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Complications of a CBC count test
A CBC count is a simple procedure where the lab technician just draws out blood from your body. It is as easy as an ordinary blood test and there are rarely any complications. However, it can be challenging to draw blood from people with small veins. The lab technician may face difficulty in locating a vein. Or once the needle is in, they might have to move it around to draw blood. This can cause pain and discomfort.
Some of the complications (even though, rare) include:
- Infection at the needle site
- Bleeding underneath the skin or hematoma
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting, dizziness, or lightheadedness
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How can you prepare for a CBC count test?
As we said, a WBC count test is just like any other blood test and doesn’t need any specific preparations or precautionary measures. You need to fix an appointment at your local laboratory.
Certain medications can interfere with your lab results and cause abnormal results. The drugs that have the potential to affect your results are:
- chemotherapy medication
When you fix the appointment, let the person know about the medications and drugs you take on an everyday basis. The technician will be able to guide and help you out.
The results of a WBC count test
Test results for WBC count are determined by the numbers that are higher or lower than the normal range as per your age.
A low or high WBC count can point to a blood disorder or similar medical conditions. However, you shouldn’t try to diagnose yourself by evaluating the test results. Consult a medical professional with proper knowledge. Your doctor will take into account several factors like your age, medical history, symptoms, current medications, etc. before diagnosing your condition.
The medical term for a low white blood cell count is known as leukopenia. It can be triggered by the following:
- severe infections
- liver and spleen diseases
- radiation therapy
- some medications, such as antibiotics
- autoimmune disorders
- bone marrow disorders or damage
Whereas, the medical term used to denote a high WBC count is leukocytosis. It can be triggered by conditions like:
- infections such as tuberculosis
- tumors in the bone marrow
- inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and bowel disease
- tissue damage
- some medications, such as corticosteroids
After evaluating your test results and diagnosing your condition, your doctor will devise a treatment plan for you. Months into your treatment plan, you will have to get another CBC count test done. If your WBC count resumes to normal, then the treatment plan is working. And, if it doesn’t then your condition has probably worsened.
However, don’t stress yourself. Having a low or high white blood cell count is more common than you think. And where there is a condition, there is a cure! Just trust your doctor and you will be good to go.