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Leukocytes: what are they and what's their ideal count

Leukocytes, also known as white blood cells, are the cells responsible for defending the body against infections, diseases, allergies and colds, being part of each person's immune system. These cells are carried in the blood to be used whenever a virus, a bacteria, or any other foreign body enters the body, eliminating and preventing them from causing health problems.

The normal count of leukocytes in the blood may range from 4500 to 11000 leukocytes/mm³ in adults. However this count may be altered due to recent infections, stress or AIDS, for example. See how a leukogram is done and how to interpret the results.

Leukocytes: what are they and what's their ideal count

Causes of high leukocytes

Increased leukocytes, also known as leukocytosis, are characterized by a count greater than 11,000/mm³ in a blood test.

  • Possible causes: recent infection or illness, excessive stress, side effect of a medication, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, myelofibrosis or leukemia, for example;
  • What are the symptoms: These are rare, but may include fever above 38°C, dizziness, difficulty breathing, tingling in the arms and legs and loss of appetite.

In these cases, a general practitioner should be consulted to diagnose the cause of the increased leukocytes since some specific treatment with antibiotics or corticosteroids may be necessary.

Causes of low leukocytes

Low leukocytes, also called leukopenia, arises when there are less than 4,500/mm³ leukocytes in the blood test.

  • Some causes: anemia, use of antibiotics and diuretics, poor nutrition or weak immune system caused by HIV, leukemia, lupus or chemotherapy, for example;
  • What are the symptoms: Excessive tiredness, recurrent infections and colds, constant fever, headaches and abdominal pain.

If this happens, it is recommended to go to the general practitioner to diagnose the cause of the disease. However, in some cases, it is normal to have a low leukocytes count without a serious cause, and caution should be taken to avoid colds and flu, which can happen more easily. See what symptoms may indicate a weak immune system.

What can cause leukocytes in the urine

It is normal to have leukocytes in the urine as they are eliminated this way when their life span is over. However, during urinary infections or in situations of more serious diseases, such as cancer, the leukocytes count in the urine usually increases a lot.

Generally, high urine leukocytes generate signs and symptoms such as urine with foam, fever, chills or blood in the urine, for example. In these cases, the general practitioner or a nephrologist should be consulted to diagnose the cause and initiate appropriate treatment. Find out what foamy urine may indicate.

High white blood cells in the urine can also be a sign of pregnancy, especially when accompanied by an increase in the amount of proteins in the urine. In these cases one should take a pregnancy test or consult a gynecologist to avoid false diagnosis.

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