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White Blood Cells: Diseases and Disorders

White Blood Cells: Diseases and Disorders

White blood cells are the cells that fight against any infection. The diseases and disorders related to these cells can be fatal, if early treatment is not given. Read on to know about them...
Mayuri Kulkarni
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
White blood cell
White blood cells
White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are an important part of our immune system that play a vital role in defending the body from various infections. There are different types of white blood cells; neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. All of them are produced in the bone marrow and are found in the lymph tissues and blood. Neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils are called granulocytes. T cells, B cells and natural killer cells are types of lymphocytes.
Did you know?
There is a definite life span of white blood cells; it can be 2 weeks to 3 weeks, after which they are destroyed. The number of leukocytes present in the body changes with advancing age.
Diseases caused by white blood cell disorder
Increase or decrease in the number of leukocytes in the blood, leads to different diseases and disorders of the white blood cells. Neutropenia, HIV/AIDS and lymphocytopenia are caused due to low white blood cell count, while leukemia is caused due to high white blood cell count.
White blood cell diseases
Given below is a brief information on these diseases and disorders.
Neutropenia
What is Neutropenia and its Causes
Neutrophils contribute to 70% of white blood cells in our body. They help the body fight against pathogens. Neutropenia is caused due to reduced number of neutrophils in the blood. There are several causes of neutropenia. Side effects of any medication, chemotherapy, and viral infection are some of the causes. Inadequate formation of neutrophils in the bone marrow or destruction of neutrophils in the bloodstream, can cause a type of neutropenia called autoimmune neutropenia.
Symptoms and Treatment
Fever or any frequent infection can be symptoms of neutropenia. Neutropenia is diagnosed by determining the white blood cell count. The normal neutrophil count is 3000 to 8000 (per microliter of blood). Neutropenia is diagnosed when the neutrophil count is below 2000. The treatment for neutropenia depends on the cause. Medications that can help increase the number of neutrophils are recommended for such patients. In rare cases, bone marrow transplant is performed.
HIV/AIDS
What is HIV/AIDS?
AIDS is a life-threatening disease that is caused due to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The final stage of this infection is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This virus attacks and destroys the white blood cells, that are responsible for regulating the immune system. Thus, the immune system of an infected person becomes very weak.
Causes and Symptoms
The HIV can pass to others through person-to-person contact. Thus, unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person is the most common cause. An infected mother can pass the virus to her child. These days, the infection to the child can be prevented with the help of proper treatment. Many people don't show HIV symptoms in the early stages. However, symptoms like weight loss, night sweats, diarrhea appear in later stages. Safety measures are the only way to avoid getting infected with HIV.
Lymphocytopenia
Causes
The reduced number of lymphocytes in the blood leads to lymphocytopenia. Chronic infections, chemotherapy or any blood related diseases are some of the causes of the disease. The treatment is given depending upon the cause.
Leukemia
What is Leukemia?
Leukemia, also called blood cancer, is a group of diseases that is caused due to uncontrolled and abnormal increase of immature leukocytes. The bone marrow produces a large number of immature white blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemia is caused due to increased number of lymphocytes. The reason behind the uncontrolled growth in the number of immature cells is still unknown.
Types of Leukemia and its Treatment
The following is a list of different types of leukemia that occur due to increase in the number of immature white blood cells:
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Leukemia patients are susceptible to any kind of infection. Their immune system is not capable of fighting against infection. Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant are some of the treatments given for leukemia.
Eosinophilia, monocyte disorders, idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome are some other diseases related to white blood cells. Leukocytes are vital cells of our body, and diseases and disorders associated with the WBCs can lead to serious problems. Treatment coupled with lifestyle changes can help to normalize white blood cell count, which in turn, will lower the risk of infections in the future.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.