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White blood cells play an important role in the immunity/immune system of an individual. The white blood cell count is done routinely as part of a complete blood count. An unusually high white blood cell count can indicate an infection, hypersplenism, bone marrow depression (drugs, radiation or heavy metal poisoning) or primary bone marrow disorders such as leukemia. A low white blood cell count can be the result of infection, make an individual more susceptible to outside infections or allow multiplication of organisms within the body which would normally kept in check by a healthy immune system.
There are many different types and forms of white cells. Since deficiencies can affect one or more types or forms, a doctor's help and additional testing is usually required to understand the nature or cause of the deficiency.
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Acute: An illness or symptom of sudden onset, which generally has a short duration.
Anaphylactic Shock: Also known as anaphylaxis, this is a serious and rapid allergic reaction usually involving more than one part of the body which, if severe enough, can kill. It is characterized by decreased blood pressure and impaired respiration.
Anemia: A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.
Chemotherapy: A treatment of disease by any chemicals. Used most often to refer to the chemical treatments used to combat cancer cells.
Chronic: Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
Copper: An essential mineral that is a component of several important enzymes in the body and is essential to good health. Copper is found in all body tissues. Copper deficiency leads to a variety of abnormalities, including anemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, pronounced cardiovascular lesions, elevated blood cholesterol, impaired immunity and defects in the pigmentation and structure of hair. Copper is involved in iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is also involved with vitamin C in the formation of collagen and the proper functioning in central nervous system. More than a dozen enzymes have been found to contain copper. The best studied are superoxide dismutase (SOD), cytochrome C oxidase, catalase, dopamine hydroxylase, uricase, tryptophan dioxygenase, lecithinase and other monoamine and diamine oxidases.
Granulocyte: A mature white blood cell with cytoplasm containing granules.
Hormones: Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Leukemia: Cancer of the lymph glands and bone marrow resulting in overproduction of white blood cells (related to Hodgkin's disease).
Parasite: An organism living in or on another organism.
Pernicious Anemia: Anemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Virus: Any of a vast group of minute structures composed of a protein coat and a core of DNA and/or RNA that reproduces in the cells of the infected host. Capable of infecting all animals and plants, causing devastating disease in immunocompromised individuals. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, and are completely dependent upon the cells of the infected host for the ability to reproduce.
White Blood Cell: (WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.