Lymphocytes are cells that work in our immune system and thus belong to the white blood cell family. Lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils levels are assessed through a blood differential test (also called a white blood cell differential), as a part of a complete blood count. This test can detect abnormal or immature cells and can diagnose an infection, leukemia, or an immune disorder. A healthcare professional may order a blood differential when someone has general signs and symptoms of infection and/or inflammation, such as:
- Fever, chills
- Body aches, pains
So called because they are the primary type of cell found in lymph, lymphocytes have three major types: T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells. Together, lymphocytes are the major component of our body’s adaptive immune response and usually account for approximately 20%-40% of the total white blood cells circulating at a given time. They act by identifying foreign objects, like bacteria and viruses, and generating a specific response that is tailored to maximally eliminate the invader.
Known as lymphocytopenia, decreased lymphocyte levels may indicate:
- An autoimmune disorder like lupus
- Bone marrow damage (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation treatment)
- An infection like HIV or hepatitis
- A severe infection, such as sepsis, which is wiping out white blood cells faster than the body an make them
Known as lymphocytosis, elevated lymphocyte levels may indicate:
- A chronic bacterial infection
- Acute viral infection
- Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow
- Lymphocytic leukemia
- Lymphoma, a white blood cell cancer that originates in the lymph nodes
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