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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Blood Cell Count


These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Grouped Together Platelets [posted 11/11/98]
Question: The results of my blood test have just come back. They say everything seems O.K but that my "platelets are grouped together". The Doctor says this is nothing to worry about but I have been feeling very tired now for a few months - could this be linked?

Answer: Not unless your serum protein levels are high, probably no relationship.

White Blood Count Concerns [posted 11/11/98]
Question: I just found out that I have a low WBC count. What is this a sign of?

Answer: Depends on how low and if it is sustained. Many things can cause this and it will need to be evaluated if persistently below 3000 or so. Certainly below 1000.

White Blood Count Concerns [posted 11/6/98]
Question: I am a 41 year old female in excellant health, low blood pressure and weigh 118 lbs. at 5'6". Three days ago I experienced abdominal pain, mostly lower right side, had no appetite and felt weak. Had a tempurature of 99 up to 101. My normal temperature is 97.8. I also had back lower back pain on both sides. Went to my gyn. on the third day, he did an ultrasound and ordered a blood work-up. He found two cysts on my right ovary but thought there was something else wrong because of my symptoms. He called me on the 4th day to tell me my white count was through the roof and sent me for an ultrasound of my appendix and consult with a surgeon. Nothing out of the ordinary with the ultrasound but the surgeon informed me my blood count was over 18,000. I do feel somewhat better, have an appetite and no more fever. What should be my next move? I asked the doctor to prescribe another blood test to see what mt count is today, now that I know I no longer have a fever and feel better, he said it wasn't a bad idea, but my husband thinks it's not nessecary. Any suggestions on what it could be?

Answer: An elevated white blood count only shows some type of inflammation. It will not give the answer. Serial exams with the md would be my recommendation.

Low White Blood Count Concerns [posted 11/5/98]
Question: My boyfriend is 24 and just had his blood taken and they told him that his WBC coount is low. Is this something that he should be concerned with or not worry about? He is going back in to get his blood taken again. He is in good health. He takes multi-vitamin and antioxidants. I am not sure but I do not hink this is something that runs in the family. Thank you for your time.

Answer: Depends on how low and if it persists. Usually counts excede 4000, occasional patients will be down to 2000. It also depends on the differential;that is, what is low of the white cells. I need some more information.

Red Blood Count [posted 10/19/98]
Question: My son has had a blood test taken as part of his college physical. The doctor said he had a high red blood cell count and has asked him to take another blood test. He is a football player and weight lifter but has not taken steriods. He has tried androsteine but that was over a year ago. What could a high red cell mean and how can it be treated. We are continuing to see the doctor, but I'd like to do a little investigating on my own.

Answer: Would depend on how high. If over 50 is very bothersome. Young men often get to the high 40s due to their level of testerone-but, shouldn't be over 50. A red cell mass should be done in nuclear medicine to see his actual red cell mass-this is the first step in diagnosing his problem. One would be suspicious of someone who has taken steroids that they are taking they again and causing the problem.

High Red Blood Count [posted 8/14/98]
Question: I recently had some blood tests done and the results came in saying I have high rbc. What does this mean? I know rbc means Red Blood Count, but what does it mean if it is high?

Answer: Probably nothing unless your count is a hematocrit much above 48 or so. High counts can cause strokes, etc., and can be a marker for polycythemia vera. However, this is always above a Hct of 50. What is your Hct?

White Blood Cell Count [posted 8/11/98]
Question: My white blood cell count came back at about 21.5, and normal is around 11. Does this imply anything besides leukemia? Is 21.5 possibly a spike, fighting off flu, or because it is high, if repeated in another test, should that mean go to a bone marrow test automatically? Will a blood test indicate if it's chronic or quick?

Answer: Possibly an infection, but pretty high for a simple infection. Re-check it in 3 weeks, but I'd keep a close eye on this. Are the white cells lymphocytes, neutrophils, etc. Are there any immature forms or blasts? These are all important questions.

Low White Blood Cell Count [posted 8/5/98]
Question: What are the reason for a below normal white blood cell count in a 14 year old male? Can it be caused by a virus such as the flu? Are there any life treating illnesses indicated by this?

Answer: Viral syndromes are notorious for causing low white blood cell counts. Simply repeat the test about 10 days later. There are numerous causes of low counts. 5% of individuals are low by definition (the counts are based on 95% of the population). I'd simply recheck it before getting too concerned.

White Blood Cell Count
Question: Please tell me what it means if one's white blood cell count is slightly high?

Answer: It can mean several things depending on the height of the blood count and the type of cells that are elevated. Many inflammatory conditions can elevate one's blood count and this is normal under certain stresses. Infections of virus, bacteria etc., are the most common and these pass after a couple of weeks. Disorders of blood production can produce elevated white counts. These are usually accompanied by unusual cells(blasts, etc.) In the blood count. First of all recheck the count 4 weeks or so after the first count (or after any infection clears). If the count is above 15 thousand this is very unusual. It is common to have counts to 15,000 and it is usually not even elevated until 10,000.

White blood cell count
Question: My white blood cell count has been consistently below normal range. The most recent reading was 3.6. Last year, at this time, it was 4.1. I have two aunts that apparently have the same condition. They also have consistently low to below normal white blood cell counts. However, they cannot remember the name of the syndrome. What is the name of this syndrome and should I be concerned?

Answer: There are several syndromes that can produce low white cell counts. However, if it runs in your family I would not be to concerned. A more critical question is the differential count. That is, are all the white cells represented or is one type absent or decreased. This is the key to the problem.

Blood Amount
Question: How many gallons of Blood does the body have?

Answer: 60% of body mass is fluid. About 20% is extracellular. So, for a 150 lb. adult, about 9 lbs are blood. One pound = one pint.
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