What are white blood cells?
Whereas red blood cells carry oxygen, white blood cells, also called “leukocytes” help fight infections. Each type of leukocyte has specific roles in protecting our bodies. Many disorders affect white blood cells - causing their counts to be too low, too high, or causing malfunctions of the cells. Leukocytes include neutrophils (which fight bacteria and fungus infections), lymphocytes (which fight viruses, produce antibodies, and regulate the immune system), monocytes ("professional" germ eating cells), eosinophils, (which help fight parasitic infections and are related to allergic responses), and basophils.
What causes benign white blood cell disorders?
Benign white blood cell disorders occur when:
- white blood cell count is low
- white blood cell count is high
- white blood cells are not functioning properly
What are some examples of benign white blood cell disorders?
Examples of disorders occurring when white blood cell count is low:
- Neutropenia (low number of neutrophils in the blood)
- Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
- Kostmann syndrome (inherited disorder in which the blood lacks neutrophils)
Examples of disorders occurring when white blood cells malfunction:
- Chronic granulomatous disease (inherited disorder in which immune system cells called phagocytes do not function properly)
- Leukocyte adhesion deficiency (rare inherited disorder in which the white blood cells are unable to produce a protein called CD18that helps them travel to the site of an infection)
- Myeloperoxidase deficiency (disorder in which the enzymes that help the immune system fight bacteria are deficient)
- Chediak Higashi syndrome (rare inherited disorder affecting the immune system)
Are benign white blood cell disorders common?
White blood cell disorders of lymphocytes and neutrophils are the most common. Disorders that involve monocytes and eosinophils are less common and disorders involving basophils are rare.
What are the symptoms of white blood cell disorders?
Symptoms depend on the type of white blood cell disorder a child has. Common symptoms include:
- Frequent infections
- Skeletal abnormalities (growth plate changes, short ribs, curvature of the spine)
- Skin abscesses
- Severe periodontal disease
- Delayed wound healing
- Chronic, often greasy diarrhea
- Invasive fungal infections