Elevated White Blood Cells: Causes & Treatments

A high level of white blood cells or leukocytosis may be a sign of several health problems. Some of them are inflammation, injury, infection, and disorders of the immune system.

A blood count is usually done to check for leukocytosis. By treating the underlying cause, the white blood cell count usually drops down. 

White blood cells higher than normal is how the immunity responds and isn’t necessarily a cause for worry.

The Different Types of Leukocytosis 

Most of the time, it indicates that the body is fighting some inflammation or infection. 

But, in some cases, it may be a sign of a more serious health issue like leukemia. If more than 11,000 white blood cells are present in a microliter of blood, it’s considered leukocytosis. 

Currently, there are five leukocytosis types according to the five types of leukocytes. The type is determined according to the type of cell which is affected.

  • Lymphocytosis is a high level of lymphocytes that keep our lymphatic system safe
  • Monocytosis is a result of the high level of monocytes or white blood cells that boost the responses of the immune system
  • Neutrophilia leukocytosis is a consequence of a high level of neutrophils. This is the most abundant white blood cell that plays a role in the healing of infections and damaged tissue
  • Eosinophilia is caused by a high level of eosinophils. These white blood cells participate in fighting against inflammation and infections. It’s usually associated with parasitic infections, autoimmune disorders, and allergies
  • Basophilia is the rarest type and high levels of basophils are linked to blood clots, parasitic infections, and allergies

What Are the Reasons for Leukocytosis?

In most cases, the reason for leukocytosis is inflammation or an infection. Other reasons are the following:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Extreme emotional or physical stress 
  • Burns
  • Immunity disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Teeth cavities 
  • Some meds like corticosteroids and lithium 
  • Splenectomy 
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Disorders of the bone marrow

The Diagnosis & Treatment of Leukocytosis 

Your doctor will examine you and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They will also schedule you for a complete blood count that will check your red blood, white blood, and platelet count in the blood. 

In some cases, there’s a need for a bone marrow test to confirm leukocytosis. The treatment depends on the cause. For example, if a bacterial infection is to blame, you will be given antibiotics. 

If the leukocytosis is caused by an allergic reaction, antihistamines may be necessary. Other potential treatments for this condition are:

  • Anti-inflammatory meds 
  • Inhalers for asthma
  • Meds for relief from anxiety or stress
  • IV fluids for better blood flow
  • Cancer treatments like radiation, chemo,  and stem cell transplant 

There are cases when one’s white blood cell count may go back to a normal level without a need for treatment.