Elevated neutrophils could indicate an infection, but it may occur also due to medical conditions or some drugs. Neutrophils are a type of immune cell and they make up much of the white blood cells. They are one of the first cells to reach a site of body that has an infection. These cells fight infections by ingesting microbes and releasing enzymes, which help kill the microorganisms. Having elevated neutrophils indicates other conditions like stress or smoking. Although having high neutrophils may not indicate a serious problem, there is need to see a doctor if the neutrophil count has been found to be high. Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is the measure used to determine how many neutrophil granulocytes are in blood of a person.
Causes of elevated neutrophils
Neutrophils must be above 8000 in order to be considered a high level of these cells. There are many things, which may cause the cell count of these types of white blood cells to be abnormally highly. Stress is one aspect associated with elevated neutrophils. Physical stress induced by things like pregnancy, emotions, and exercises may increase the levels of neutrophil granulocytes.
When you have a vigorous physical exertion, the levels of these cells circulating in blood may increase. Upon arriving in tissue, they will die thereby providing nutrition for muscle cells. They may also release some substances that are antifungal and help fight infections.
An infection may trigger increased levels of neutrophils. These cells are the first to defend a body against pathogens. They travel to the site of infection where they attack the foreign substance by ingesting it. When a pathogen like bacteria enters the body, neutrophils and other immune cells travel to the infected tissue. In the event that they do not detect any agent that is likely to cause disease in body they destroy themselves.
A bacterial infection however, may cause the bone marrow to release a large number of these cells. This may be examined in blood through the absolute neutrophil count. The cells may also be found in large amount if one has parasitic or fungal infection.
Arthritis is another cause of elevated neutrophils. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory disorder, affects the feet and hands often causing destruction and pain on small joints. It can result to bone erosion and deformity. Gout is another complex form of arthritis, which causes sudden and severe tenderness, pain, and redness in joints. Whenever you have arthritis, it may cause the release of neutrophils in large quantities.
High neutrophils may also be caused by myelogenous leukemia, which is a type of cancer in blood and bone marrow. This form of cancer specifically affects myeloid cells, a form of white blood cells, which mature to form cells like while blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells.
Rheumatic fever may cause the neutrophils to increase in blood. Rheumatic fever develops when one has strep throat that hasn’t been treated properly. It is an inflammatory disease, which can affect people of all ages. In addition to causing high levels of neutrophils in blood, rheumatic fever may also result in heart damage, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain or angina.
Acute kidney failure, that mostly affects hospitalized patients in intensive care may also cause increased levels of neutrophils. Acute kidney failure occurs when the kidneys cannot filter waste from the blood. The sudden lack of filtering ability of kidney causes dangerous levels of waste in blood.
Some medicines can increase neutrophils in blood. When you take lithium, it may cause the neutrophils to elevate in blood. Lithium is type of salt used in prescription medication to help in reducing the effects of a condition called mania or being in an overly excited state. Corticosteroids may also cause such increase in neutrophils. There are other many conditions and diseases, which may cause such increase of neutrophils.
When you are told that neutrophils are high, you should talk to your doctor. You should discuss with the doctor about this state. You may explain to the doctor if there are any medicines you have taken, which might be causing the elevation. Any mental stress you were exposed to recently could be causing the problem. Strenuous running especially in the morning may also cause the evaluated neutrophils.
Your doctor needs to know about all these aspects. Those people who smoke need to tell their doctor. When a further test still shows increased levels, or the doctor suspects there could be an underlying condition, then you might need to have further tests. The tests may be performed to determine if there is an infection, certain cancer, disease, or an inflammatory condition. Treatment is based on the underlying condition causing the elevated levels of neutrophils.