What Is Leukocytosis?
Leukocytosis is a condition characterized by an increase in white blood cells (leucocytes) in the body. These leucocytes are usually found in the bone marrow and lymph nodes. They are called leukemic because they contain abnormal DNA fragments that cause leukemia. There are different types of leukaemia: acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, and multiple myeloma.
The most common type of leukaemia is acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is caused by a genetic mutation that results in the production of abnormal proteins. These proteins lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancerous cells. The normal immune system reacts to these abnormal proteins by producing antibodies against them, which then attack the cancer cells. However, if there are too many abnormal protein produced in one person, it may result in other diseases such as leukemia or even lymphoma.
Another type of leukaemia is chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which is caused by mutations in genes that produce abnormal proteins. CML occurs when the normal immune system does not react properly to these abnormal proteins. When this happens, cancer develops.
A third type of leukaemia is multiple myeloma (MM). MM is caused by mutations in two genes, MYCN1 and MYCN2. These genes are involved in the regulation of the cell cycle. When these genes are mutated, abnormal cell growth may occur and eventually lead to cancer.
There are several ways in which leukocytosis can occur. As mentioned above, it can be caused by several types of leukemia. All three types of leukemia are caused by alterations in the human genome that lead to a defect in cell growth and production. When this happens, the body’s immune system is compromised.
Other causes of leukocytosis include:
Bacterial and viral infections – When an infection occurs in the body, the immune system responds by increasing the number of white blood cells in order to combat disease.
Inflammation – Inflammation is a condition in which the body’s tissues become swollen, red, and painful. This is the immune system’s response to injury or irritation.
Autoimmune diseases – When the body’s immune system begins to attack itself, a state of inflammation develops. This causes a large amount of white blood cells to be produced in order to fight off “threats”.
Cancer – Certain types of cancer, especially those of leukemia, can increase the number of white blood cells in the body. This is because the cancerous cells produce an abnormal amount of cytokines and other growth factors that lead to excessive white blood cell production.
What are the symptoms of leukocytosis?
In some cases, leukocytosis doesn’t cause any symptoms. When this is the case, it may go unnoticed for an extended period of time. However, if symptoms do develop, they may include:
Fever above 101 Fahrenheit
Shortness of breath
Aches and pains
Dizziness and disorientation
Paleness of skin color
How is leukocytosis treated?
Treatment for leukocytosis will vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. If it’s caused by a bacterial or viral infection, the underlying infection must be detected and treated.
Leukemia is a more serious condition and requires immediate medical attention in order to save the person’s life. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used for the treatment of leukemia. Some patients may receive a bone marrow transplant as well.
Infection in general may be treated with the use of antibiotic or antiviral medication. Inflammation is typically treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These types of drug reduce the production of cytokines that trigger inflammation.
Autoimmune diseases are typically treated with steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system. These types of drugs reduce the production of cytokines that trigger inflammation.
Cancer is a condition that requires immediate medical attention. The sooner that cancer is detected, the more likely it is that treatment can be successful. If you notice symptoms of leukocytosis in yourself or someone else, seek medical help immediately.
Remember, don’t try to self-diagnose: Always consult a medical professional for a proper diagnosis.
How can I prevent leukocytosis?
There is no sure way to prevent leukocytosis. However, there are several ways to reduce the risk of developing the condition. They include:
Practicing good hygiene and keeping your immune system healthy – Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and keep up with routine checkups with your doctor.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Leukocytosis: basics of clinical assessment by N Abramson, B Melton – American family physician, 2000 – aafp.org
Catecholamine-induced leukocytosis: early observations, current research, and future directions by RJ Benschop, M Rodriguez-Feuerhahn… – Brain, behavior, and …, 1996 – Elsevier
The molecular basis of leukocytosis by G Opdenakker, WE Fibbe, J Van Damme – Immunology today, 1998 – Elsevier
Leukocytosis during lithium treatment by DL MURPHY, FK GOODWIN… – American Journal of …, 1971 – Am Psychiatric Assoc
Sperm-induced leukocytosis in the equine uterus by T Kotilainen, M Huhtinen, T Katila – Theriogenology, 1994 – Elsevier
Leukocytosis and risk stratification assessment in essential thrombocythemia by A Carobbio, E Antonioli, P Guglielmelli… – Journal of Clinical …, 2008 – Citeseer
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Leukocytosis as a major thrombotic risk factor in patients with polycythemia vera by R Landolfi, L Di Gennaro, T Barbui, V De Stefano… – Blood, 2007 – ashpublications.org