White Blood Cell Disorders | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of white blood cell disorders?

Symptoms depend on the type of white blood cell disorder a child has and it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis from your child's physician. Common symptoms when white blood cells disorders include:

  • frequent infections, most often in the lungs, ears or sinuses
  • skin abscesses
  • mouth sores
  • invasive fungal infections
  • severe tooth and gum (periodontal) disease

Certain conditions can have unique symptoms, such as delayed wound healing in leukocyte adhesion deficiency and chronic, sometimes greasy, diarrhea in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome

What causes white blood cell disorders?

White blood cell disorders occur when the white blood cell count is too low or too high, or when the white blood cells are not functioning properly — conditions of neutrophils and lymphocytes are the most common.

When the white blood cell count is low

Neutropenia is the general term for low numbers of neutrophils in the blood. It may be congenital (due to genetic causes) or acquired (caused by medications/drugs, toxins, viruses or attacks from the child’s own immune system). Shwachman-Diamond syndrome is a rare inherited disease marked by pancreas dysfunction and congenital neutropenia—low numbers of neutrophils due to insufficient production. Kostmann syndrome is a severe form of congenital neutropenia. In this inherited disorder, the blood virtually lacks neutrophils because they do not mature properly. Patients present with infections and mouth sores early in life.

When the white blood cell count is high

Eosinophilia is a rare increase in the number of eosinophils in the blood, usually as a result of signals produced by other cells calling for more eosinophil production. Neutrophilia, meanwhile, is an increase in the number of neutrophils in the blood. Most commonly, neutrophilia is acquired and occurs in response to infections or drugs. Other rare causes exist.