TLC stands for total leucocyte count. Leucocytes are white blood cells. As most of us are aware that blood is a homogenous mixture of a number of constituents like platelets, red blood cells, hemoglobin, etc. white blood cells too are a part of this composite mixture. The white blood cells or the leucocytes are the immune system of the body. Hence when a person is infected, a leucocyte count helps us determine how the body is responding to the infection.
White blood cells are nucleated cells produced in the bone marrow and transported all throughout the body via the blood stream. Hence if any virus or bacteria enters the body through a tear in the skin or through the food we eat, etc., they are encountered and lysed by the white blood cells.
Normal TLC levels in blood
As earlier discussed, the TLC in the blood indicates there is a disease or an infection, it also indicates the type of disease. The normal white cell count in the blood must be around 4,000 to 11,000 WBC’s per microliter of blood.
The increase in TLC in blood is called leukocytosis and is usually an indicator of an autoimmune disease whereas, a decrease in the total leucocytes count in the blood termed as leukocytopenia which may very well be an indicator of a weakened immune system.
What does a low white blood cell count bespeak?
Firstly, it is imperative to understand that the TLC in the blood is not a standard value and may vary depending on gender, age, place of living, etc. however, extreme deviations from the suggested range may point to a grave problem.
A low white blood cell count tells us that the person has weakened immune responses and that fighting a disease is going to be very difficult for the person. Even a small and common infection like the viral flu may be extremely hard on the patient and the patient may take a longer recovery time than normal adults.
Very often, a low WBC count may imply to some serious underlying illnesses like bone marrow damage, autoimmune disorders, infection of the liver or spleen or any damage to these organs, severe bacterial infections. At times, if a patient suffers from cancer, the bone marrow count may be severely affected due to treatments like chemotherapy, radiations, etc. In atypical viral fevers, the WBC count may decrease.
Leukopenia is fatal. Even a small infection cannot be fought by the body hence the patient must stay at home and isolated at all times. A few medicines and supplementary growth factors may be prescribed to increase the production of WBC’s and help boost immune system. People suffering from leukopenia must be particular of the diet they follow and the medications prescribed.
What does a high white blood cell count bespeak?
As mentioned earlier, the white blood cell can vary between different groups of people. But in some cases of common flu or a minor viral fever, the white blood cell count is seen to increase. This indicates that the body is trying to fight the virus i.e. get rid of the foreign body causing distress and hence carrying out its regular functions appropriately. TLC during bacterial and fungal infections see to rise more commonly.
However, a considerable increase in the Total leucocyte count in blood may in some cases suggest leukemia (cancer in the bone marrow or in rare cases in the blood), severe inflammation on the exterior/ dermal layer ( on skin) or internal swelling i.e. formation of blood clots.
Often times after surgery especially during surgery of the liver or spleen, the white blood cell productions increase considerably. The leucocyte count also increases in case of tissue damage due to severe burns or a bad tear in the skin, etc. Certain drugs and even cigarette smoking increases the TLC in blood. Extreme stress, allergic reactions and recent trauma may also cause leukocytosis.
Very high leucocytes in the blood may cause problems in normal blood circulation and if ignored for a longer period of time, may even be fatal. Leukocytosis is treated by a process called leukapheresis where in, excess white blood cells are removed from the blood.