White Blood Cell Disorders

Also known as: pediatric white blood cell disorders, white blood cell disorders in children.

What are white blood cell disorders?

White blood cells (also called leukocytes) are the cells in your blood that help your body fight off infection. There are a number of different types of white blood cells, each has a different role in fighting infection. Leukocytes are divided into:
  1. Myeloid components:
    • Neutrophils -fight bacteria and fungi.
    • Monocytes and macrophages are white blood cells that consume organisms.
    • Eosinophils/basophils play a role in allergic reactions and also kill parasites.
  2. Lymphoid type cells:
    • B cells, T cells and natural killer (NK) cells. These fight viral infections, play a role in the immune system and produce antibodies.

White cell problems arise from there being too many (leucocytosis), too few (leucopenia), or from the cells malfunctioning.

What causes white blood cell disorders? 

The causes of white blood cell disorders vary; some are genetic disorders that are passed down from parents to children, others can develop as a result of immune problems, malignancies, from other medical conditions or outside environmental factors.

What are the symptoms of white blood cell disorders?

Symptoms depend on the type of white cell abnormality.

When there are too few, or they don't function properly, children often present with recurrent infections (often of the ears, sinuses or lungs), and skin infections (pustules/abscesses), delayed wound healing, mouth sores, gum disease or fungal infections.

What are white blood cell disorder care options?

Treatment depends on the type and severity of the white blood cell disorder.

General management includes treating symptoms, antibiotics, treatments that help stimulate the production of white blood cells from the bone marrow and possibly bone marrow transplantation. White blood cell malignancies require a variety of treatments, all of which Nicklaus Children's hospitals’ Hematology/Oncology department will discuss in full should this be required.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: April 07, 2022 02:31 PM

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