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Video:What Your White Blood Cell Count Means

with Dr. Robert Lahita

Because the white blood cells are an integral force in your body, getting a white blood cell count is important. Learn what your white blood cell count means in this how-to video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:What Your White Blood Cell Count Means

Hi I'm Dr. Bob Lahita, Chairman of Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Today we're going to talk about what the white blood cell count means.

Normal Range for a White Blood Cell Count

Now the blood cells in your blood are consisting, very simply speaking, of white cells and red cells. The white cells are really not white. The red cells are really red - and they are one type of cell. But the white cell category consists of a big population of cells.

The normal range for most people's white cells, looking at it grossly, is about 5 to 10 thousand per cubic millimeter - that's considered normal. If your blood cell count goes to 40,000 - that's pretty significant, and that can indicate infection, or it can indicate a problem with the growth and maturation of white cells.

If the white cell count goes below 5000, there's usually no problem unless it gets really low and that could be around 1500 or 2000 white cells per cubic milimeter. Now, if that happens, your doctor will be concerned. He will tell you that you are leukopenic. Leukopenia means a lack of white blood cells, leuko being white and penia meaning 'lack of''.

Low White Blood Cell Count

Now, you can have leukopenia from a variety of inflammatory conditions, or the worst situation is that your bone marrow does not make white cells anymore. The white cells are comprising a big family of cells that include neutrophils that are largely responsible for inflammation and also phagocytise that eat germs and bacteria, eocynophils which are kind of allergic cells, basophils which is another kind of cell that secretes granules, monocytes and lymphocytes.

To me the lymphocytes are probably the most important because they are the cells that are involved in your immune system and are taking care of your body and preventing you from being gobbled up by external bacteria or infected by big time viruses. So that's really what the white cell count is all about. It's important to have it done periodically by your doctor because it can tell us an awful lot. And if you have a high fever and a bad cough make sure your doctor gets a white blood cell count when you go to see him or her, because oftentimes they forget to do it.

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