High white blood cell count

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Definition

A high white blood cell count is an increase in disease-fighting cells in your blood.

The exact threshold for a high white blood cell count varies from one laboratory to another. In general, for adults a count of more than 11,000 white blood cells (leukocytes) in a microliter of blood is considered a high white blood cell count.

A high white blood cell count is also called leukocytosis.

Causes

A high white blood cell count usually indicates:

  • An increased production of white blood cells to fight an infection
  • A reaction to a drug that increases white blood cell production
  • A disease of bone marrow, causing abnormally high production of white blood cells
  • An immune system disorder that increases white blood cell production

Specific causes of a high white blood cell count include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Allergy, especially severe allergic reactions
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  • Drugs, such as corticosteroids and epinephrine
  • Infections, bacterial or viral
  • Myelofibrosis
  • Polycythemia vera
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Stress, such as severe emotional or physical stress
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping cough

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