Acute emotional or physical stress can increase WBC counts. There are various types of white blood cells (WBCs) that normally appear in the blood:
- Neutrophils (polymorphonuclear leukocytes; PMNs)
- Band cells (slightly immature neutrophils)
- T-type lymphocytes (T cells)
- B-type lymphocytes (B cells)
T and B-type lymphocytes are indistinguishable from each other in a normal slide preparation. Any infection or acute stress will result in an increased production of WBCs. This usually entails increased numbers of cells and an increase in the percentage of immature cells (mainly band zcells) in the blood. This change is referred to as a "shift to the left". People who have had a splenectomy have a persistent mild elevation of WBCs. Drugs that may increase WBC counts include epinephrine, allopurinol, aspirin, chloroform, heparin, quinine, corticosteroids, and triamterene. Drugs that may decrease WBC counts include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antihistamine, antithyroid drugs, arsenicals, barbiturates, chemotherapeutic agents, diuretics and sulfonamides.
WBC - 4,500 to 10,000 cells/mcl. (Note: cells/mcl = cells per microliter).
What abnormal results mean.
Low numbers of WBCs (leukopenia) may indicate:
- Bone marrow failure (for example, due to granuloma, tumor, fibrosis)
- Presence of cytotoxic substance collagen-vascular diseases (such as lupus erythematosus)
- Disease of the liver or spleen radiation
High numbers of WBCs (leukocytosis) may indicate:
- Infectious diseases inflammatory disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis or allergy)
- Severe emotional or physical stress tissue damage (for example, burns)
Review Date 1/19/2021
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.