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Lymphocytosis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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Lymphocytosis is a higher-than-normal amount of lymphocytes, a subtype of white blood cells, in the body. Lymphocytes are part of your immune system and work to fight off infections.


Who is most at risk for getting lymphocytosis?

Anyone can have lymphocytosis.

How common is lymphocytosis?

Lymphocytosis is very common. It’s especially common in people who have:

  • Had a recent infection (most commonly viral)
  • A medical condition that causes long-lasting inflammation, like arthritis
  • A reaction to a new medication
  • Severe medical illness, such as trauma
  • Had their spleen removed
  • Certain types of cancer, like leukemia or lymphoma

What causes lymphocytosis?

Lymphocytosis results from increased numbers of lymphocytes in your blood. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. They play an important role in your immune system, helping your body fight off infection. Many underlying medical conditions can cause lymphocytosis.

High lymphocyte blood levels indicate your body is dealing with an infection or other inflammatory condition. Most often, a temporarily high lymphocyte count is a normal effect of your body’s immune system working. Sometimes, lymphocyte levels are elevated because of a serious condition, like leukemia.

Your doctor can order specific diagnostic tests to help pinpoint the cause of your lymphocytosis. These tests may include other laboratory tests to rule out infections or tests examining other body tissues, like bone marrow biopsy and looking at your blood under a microscope.

What are the symptoms of lymphocytosis?

Lymphocytosis itself does not cause symptoms. However, you may experience symptoms from the underlying cause of lymphocytosis. Depending on the cause, symptoms may range from no symptoms to severe.

How is lymphocytosis diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses lymphocytosis with a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) with differential. This test shows an increase in white blood cells, with higher than normal amount of lymphocytes. Your doctor may use other diagnostic blood tests, such as a test called flow cytometry, to see if the lymphocytes are clonal (which is seen in a disorder called chronic lymphocytic leukemia). Testing may also include a bone marrow biopsy, to help determine the root cause of lymphocytosis. Doctors rely on your medical history, current symptoms, medication list, and physical exam to help determine the underlying cause of lymphocytosis.

How is lymphocytosis treated?

Doctors treat lymphocytosis by working to resolve its underlying cause. For most people, lymphocytosis goes away as the underlying condition improves.

What complications are associated with lymphocytosis?

Lymphocytosis tells your doctor that you have or have had an infection or illness. In many cases, lymphocytosis simply means your body has been fighting a viral infection.

In some cases, lymphocytosis is one of the first signs of certain blood cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which is the most common type of leukemia seen in adults. Further tests are usually necessary to rule out other medical conditions and make a firm diagnosis of the cause of lymphocytosis.

Can lymphocytosis be prevented?

There is no way to prevent lymphocytosis. You can reduce your risk of viral infection by:

  • Frequently and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water
  • Avoiding contact with sick individuals
  • Avoiding sharing personal items with people who are sick
  • Disinfecting surfaces and commonly used items

What is the outcome after treatment of lymphocytosis?

Lymphocytosis usually goes away after treatment for the condition or disease that caused the body to produce extra white blood cells.

When should I call my doctor?

If you have a persistent infection or you experience chronic (ongoing) symptoms or symptoms that get worse over time, contact your doctor. Your doctor can determine if you have lymphocytosis during a complete medical examination.

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