A White Blood Cells (WBC) count is a blood test that helps measure the number of white blood cells in your blood. White Blood Cells are an integral part of the body’s defense mechanism. The main function of white blood cells is to fight infections. White blood cells surround any foreign organism and destroy it. White blood cells are also capable of producing, transporting and distributing antibodies as part of body’s immune response. The lifespan of white blood cells range from thirteen to twenty days. After this time period they are eliminated by the lymphatic system. White blood cells are mainly classified into two groups known as granulocytes and non granulocytes. The granulocytes are cells which have granules in their cell cytoplasm. Granulocyte white blood cells include neutrophils, basophils and eosinophils. Non granulocytes are white blood cells which do not have granules and include lymphocytes and monocytes. Such non granular white blood cells are also known as mononuclear leukocytes.
White blood cell count is part of a routine blood test to assess the general health condition of an individual. A specific white blood cell test may be required to study serious health disorders. White blood cells are measured on two important parameters while conducting a complete blood count. The total number of white blood cells in a micro liter of blood (white blood count levels ) and the percentage of each type (neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes and monocytes) of white blood cells. The specific test pertaining to the percentage of each of the five types of white blood cells is also known as differential or 'diff'. Normal white blood count values range from 4,500-10,000.
Slightly elevated white blood count or high white blood count is usually due to an increase in any one type of white blood cells and the disorder is named after the cells that show an increase. For example, increase in monocytes is known as monocytosis. Low white blood count or leucopenia is condition wherein the white blood cell count drops below 4000. Some common low white blood count symptoms are increased risk to infections. The extent of risk depends on various factors such as: low level of white blood cell count, duration of such low levels of white blood cell count, the type of low white blood cell and impact of any medications that lead to such conditions. Certain measures that can help reduce the risk of contracting infections are avoiding dental work, limiting contact with sick people and maintaining adequate personal hygiene.