Your White Blood Cell Count

What Causes Abnormal White Blood Cell Count?

Abnormal white blood cell count can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'needs attention' to 'critical'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose abnormal white blood cell 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 white blood cell count" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Hemolytic Anemia
  • Drug Side-Effects
  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Chronic Infection
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Chemotherapy Side-Effects
  • Lupus (SLE)
  • Gallbladder Disease

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:
major joint pain/swelling/stiffness
dull epigastric pain after meals
gallbladder attacks
minor inflamed cuticles
serious problem with cysts
frequent painful cervical nodes
moderate recent weight loss
macrocytic red cells
no blood in nipple discharge
mild unexplained fevers
minor mouth sores
severe flatulence
... and more than 90 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 white blood cell count:
Cause Probability Status
Aplastic Anemia 95% Confirm
Drug Side-Effects 20% Unlikely
Lupus (SLE) 20% Unlikely
Gallbladder Disease 5% Ruled out
Chemotherapy Side-Effects 4% Ruled out
HIV/AIDS 0% Ruled out
Hemolytic Anemia 0% Ruled out
Chronic Infection 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:
Leukocytes (White Blood Cell count - WBC). Unit: x10^3/uL or x10^9/L. NOTE: If your results show large numbers, divide by 1000 (i.e. 3900 becomes 3.9).
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ Under 3.5
→ 3.5 to 4.8
→ 4.9 to 10.0 (normal)
→ Over 10.0
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate very low white blood cell count, low white blood cell count, normal white blood cell count or high white blood cell count, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Chronic / Hidden Infection

A high white-blood-cell count is often a sign of infection.

Gallbladder Disease

Acute cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) often causes increased numbers of white cells in the blood.

Chemotherapy Side-Effects

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy destroy fast-growing cells such as white blood cells.  Patients receiving a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy are at greater risk of a low white count.

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)

Active lupus and an infection may share many symptoms.  Further, infection can induce a lupus flare or be difficult to distinguish from a lupus flare.  A low white blood cell count is suggestive of active lupus (although certain viruses can also give a low white count) while a high count suggests infection.

... and also rule out issues such as:
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