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):
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Drug Side-Effects
  • Chronic Infection
  • Lupus (SLE)
  • Aplastic Anemia
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Chemotherapy Side-Effects

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:
regular episodes of diarrhea
history of birth control pill use
very frequent stools
inflamed cuticles
frequent episodes of diarrhea
flatulence
moderate periumbilical pain
unexplained high fevers
chronic abdominal pain
occasional unexplained fevers
frequent meal-related bloating
regular infections
... and more than 100 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
Diverticular Disease 90% Confirm
Drug Side-Effects 22% Unlikely
Chemotherapy Side-Effects 17% Unlikely
HIV/AIDS 4% Ruled out
Gallbladder Disease 4% Ruled out
Aplastic Anemia 3% Ruled out
Chronic Infection 0% Ruled out
Lupus (SLE) 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:
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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