Your body produces white blood cells (leukocytes), which help fight bacterial infections, viruses and fungi. There are several types of white blood cells, each with a different disease-fighting activity.
A white blood cell disorder can mean that your child has too few or too many white blood cells of a certain type, which can cause, or be caused by, serious health problems. Types of white blood cell disorders include low white blood cell count (leukopenia), high white blood cell count (leukocytosis), neutropenia, lymphocytopenia, monocyte disorders and eosinophilia, among others.
There are many types of white blood cell disorders, such as:
- Low white blood cell count. Low white blood cell count, or leukopenia, means having too few disease-fighting cells (leukocytes) circulating in the blood. A long-term low white blood cell count increases risk of infections and may be caused by a number of different diseases and conditions.
- High white blood cell count. High white blood cell count, or leukocytosis, means having too many leukocytes circulating in the blood. A number of different diseases and conditions may cause a long-term high white blood cell count.
- Neutropenia. Neutropenia is a low number of neutrophils, a kind of white blood cell that fights infections of fungi and bacteria. Neutropenia can be caused by a problem in the bone marrow or by a condition that prematurely destroys cells in the bloodstream. In addition, certain medications and other diseases or conditions can cause neutropenia.
- Lymphocytopenia. Lymphocytopenia (lim-fo-si-toe-PE-ne-uh) is a decrease in lymphocytes, the type of white blood cell that, among other tasks, protects your body from viral infections. It can result from an inherited syndrome, be associated with certain diseases, or be a side effect from medications or other treatments.
- Monocyte disorders. Monocytes help get rid of dead or damaged tissue and regulate your body's immune response. Infections, cancer, autoimmune diseases and other conditions can cause an increased number of monocytes. A decreased number can be the result of toxins, chemotherapy and other causes.
- Eosinophilia. Eosinophilia (e-o-sin-o-PHIL-e-uh) is a higher than normal number of eosinophil cells, a type of disease-fighting white blood cell. Eosinophilia can be caused by a variety of conditions, diseases and factors, most commonly by an allergic reaction or a parasite infection.
- Expertise and team approach. Your multispecialty team of experts may include pediatric hematologists, pediatric oncologists and other pediatric experts in immunodeficiencies and infectious diseases who work together to provide exceptional care for children and support for families.
- Newest technology. At Mayo Clinic, your doctor will have access to specialized lab tests and may work with immunologists and infectious disease experts to find the best treatment approach. The Cellular and Molecular Immunology Laboratory, which is part of the Jeffrey Modell Foundation for Primary Immunodeficiency Center at Mayo Clinic, provides the most modern and cutting-edge testing to identify underlying causes of many white blood cell disorders.
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Doctors in pediatric hematology and oncology and other pediatric experts in immunodeficiencies and infectious diseases treat pediatric white blood cell disorders at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital is child-friendly, providing comfortable consultation rooms, imaging areas and inpatient care.
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To diagnose your child's condition, doctors may perform the following:
Nov. 20, 2012
- Blood tests. If your child's white blood cell count is abnormal, a Mayo Clinic pediatric hematologist will work closely with lab specialists and others to determine the type of white blood cell disorder and the cause.
- Bone marrow biopsy. Doctors insert a thin needle into the bone to collect a tissue sample and then examine the cells under a microscope.
- Additional tests. More tests, such as imaging and others, may be needed for proper diagnosis. In tests that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure.