What Is Leukocytosis?

Samples of blood from a healthy person and one with leukemia. Some types of leukemia can cause leukocytosis.
Blood transfusions can be used to help treat leukocytosis.
A diagram showing different types of leukocytes, or white blood cells. Leukocytosis occurs when there are too many white blood cells.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Leukocytosis is a condition that occurs when the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells. This condition can occur as a result of bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection, or as a result of the inflammation that often occurs with disorders such as osteoarthritis. Physical or emotional stress, medication side effects, strong immune reactions, or disorders of the bone marrow can also cause this disorder. Symptoms can vary, depending on the cause of the disorder, but often include fever, fatigue, and weakness. Treatment can also vary, depending on the cause of the disorder.

A number of health factors can contribute to elevated white blood cell counts. Often, abnormally high white blood cell counts occur due to infection, since white blood cells are the immune cells responsible for fighting bacteria, viruses and other pathogens inside the body. Inflammation, such as that caused by osteoarthritis, can also lead to increased white blood cell production. Damage to bodily tissues often results in a similar immune reaction, as can allergies or asthma.

Extreme emotional and physical stress can also lead to a raised white blood cell count. Certain prescription medications can cause leukocytosis as a side effect. Disorders of the bone marrow, including leukemia, thrombocytopenia and myelofibrosis can lead to elevated white blood cell counts.

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Symptoms of leukocytosis can vary widely, depending upon the underlying cause of the disease. Certain symptoms, however, can occur no matter what the cause. These symptoms include excessive bleeding or bruising, fever, lethargy and weakness, dizziness, sweating, and fainting. Tingling pain might occur in the legs, arms, or abdomen. Vision problems, confusion and difficulty breathing can occur, along with weight loss and lowered appetite.

A complete blood count (CBC) can often be used to definitively diagnose leukocytosis by pinpointing a patient's white blood cell count. A peripheral blood smear (PBS) might be necessary if bone marrow disorders are suspected. These tests can help doctors look for abnormalities in the white blood cells.

Treatment usually seeks to resolve the underlying cause of the elevated white counts. In some cases, such as with an infection, no treatment is necessary, as the condition will generally resolve itself when the infection is treated or runs its course. Steroids, antibiotics, and drugs to reduce blood levels of uric acid can help treat the issue. Where bone marrow disorders are the cause of leukocytosis, bone marrow transplants, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy can be used as treatments.

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croydon
Post 2

@umbra21 - It actually can occur in healthy people as well, who aren't being stressed emotionally. We learned about it in a sports clinic.

If you push yourself too hard, even in a single, long session, you can cause leukocytosis in yourself. Not that you should be aiming to do that, as it's obviously a bad thing to do.

But, the body will start responding to you pushing that hard.

It's because of inflammation. If you work out too vigorously, you're going to cause a bunch of inflammation in your muscles and joints and your body interprets that as being sick.

So, the white blood cells are made to deal with it. In this case, generally it goes away by itself. It is a normal response, after all.

umbra21
Post 1

It's interesting that this condition can occur as a result of extreme emotional stress. I mean, if you think about it, the body might interpret extreme stress as being something it needs to fight off, or possibly that it needs to amp up as you can't afford to be sick while something is stressing you out like that.

Unfortunately, since it makes you feel sick by trying to make you feel better, it doesn't really help all that much.

It does help to show why sometimes people under a lot of stress feel physically sick, even though they don't have an illness. Being nauseated, sweating, feverish and so forth seem like the kind of thing that happens to people who are subjected to extreme stress.

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