Your Lymphocyte Count

What Causes Abnormal Lymphocyte Count?

Abnormal lymphocyte count can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose abnormal lymphocyte count, we could:
  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "abnormal lymphocyte count" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Whooping Cough
  • Malaria
  • Steroid Abuse
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • CMV Infection
  • Bone Marrow Suppression
  • Measles
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
irritated eyes
long term neck pain
elevated free T4
frequent unexplained fevers
having loose stools
history of rheumatoid arthritis
hyperthyroidism in family members
major unexplained weight gain
frequent 'chills'
having trouble concentrating
poor muscular strength
... and more than 40 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of abnormal lymphocyte count:
Cause Probability Status
Hyperthyroidism 92% Confirm
Bone Marrow Suppression 24% Unlikely
Measles 19% Unlikely
Steroid Abuse 4% Ruled out
Whooping Cough 2% Ruled out
CMV Infection 0% Ruled out
Rheumatoid Arthritis 0% Ruled out
Malaria 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having had recent lab tests, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
White Blood Cells - Lymphocyte Percentage [fraction]
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ Under 20% [0.20] (low)
→ 20 to 45% [0.20-0.45] (normal)
→ 46 to 55% [0.46-0.55] (elevated)
→ Over 55% [0.55] (high)
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate low lymphocyte count, normal lymphocyte count, elevated lymphocyte count or highly elevated lymphocyte count, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
(Prescription) Drug Side-Effects
Certain drugs, such as steroids and chemotherapy drugs, can cause a decreased lymphocyte count.  Levels should return to normal after stopping treatment.
Bone Marrow Suppression
Lymphocytes are made in the bone marrow, so when the bone marrow isn't functioning properly, lymphocyte counts can drop.
Hypersplenism is sometimes referred to as enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), but in fact an enlarged spleen is one of the symptoms of hypersplenism.  What differentiates hypersplenism is its premature destruction of blood cells.
Congestive Heart Failure
In severe failure of the right ventricle, elevated venous pressures are transmitted to the portal system, leading to congestion of the spleen and splenomegaly.
ALL, CML, or hairy cell leukemia can cause enlargement of the spleen.
Infectious Mononucleosis - Mono
About 50-75% of people with mononucleosis have some spleen enlargement, usually seen two to three weeks after they first become sick.  Whether or not the spleen is enlarged, people who have mono should not lift heavy objects or exercise vigorously – especially participating in contact sports – for two months after they get sick, because these activities increase the risk of rupturing the spleen, which can be life-threatening.  If you have mono and get a severe sharp, sudden pain on the left side of your upper abdomen, go to an emergency room immediately.
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Autoimmune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause reduced lymphocyte counts.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
A complete blood count may show large numbers of lymphocytes in a pertussis patient.