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Lymphocytes and their function

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that form constituents in the blood of a human body. White blood cells in the body protect our body from disease causing bacteria, viruses and other organism. Lymphocytes are instrumental in fighting the body against tumor growth, bacterial and viral infection. These cells are also known to reject the transplant of healthy tissue because they consider it to be a foreign object.  Lymphocytes manufactured in the bone marrow, can live for weeks, years and even for the life time of an individual.

In the body, there are three main types of lymphocytes – the T cell lymphocytes, the NK (Natural Killer) cell lymphocytes and the B cell lymphocytes. All of these lymphocytes have a definite function and team up to make the immune system strong and resistant to diseases and disorders.  Studies show that B cell and T cell lymphocytes can prevent the control of cancerous cells. Lymphocytes comprise 15 to 40 percent of the total number of white blood cells in the human body. A decrease or increase in the normal range of lymphocytes can indicate infections or health conditions.

Lymphocytes – Normal Range

The normal range of lymphocytes in the blood is usually between 1200 and 3200 lymphocytes per milliliter of blood. Please note that different medical laboratories have different evaluation standards for finding the normal lymphocyte count. So, you may have to check with the doctor for the correct interpretation of the lab results.

High lymphocyte count

Lymphocytes when more than 40 percent of the total number of white blood cells, can be deemed high. They can indicate the following health conditions –

  • Flu
  • Mumps
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping Cough
  • Mumps
  • Chicken Pox
  • Brucellosis  – infection caused by animals
  • Rubella
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Blood transfusion
  • Ulcerative colitis, which is an inflammatory bowel disorder
  • CLL or Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • ALL or Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Toxoplasmosis which is an infection usually affects in birds, animals and reptiles, but can also affect humans.
  • Cytomegalovirus – a viral infection affecting the stomach and/or the eyes
  • Multiple myeloma –  plasma cell cancer
  • Mononucleosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Herpes simplex, a viral infection with symptoms that can mime cold and flu
  • Vasculitis, caused due to inflammation of blood cells
  • Various types of viral and bacterial infections
  • Side effects to medication

Low lymphocyte count in blood

The decreased percentage of lymphocytes in the blood can cause a condition medically termed as lymphocytopenia.  This is also as dangerous as high lymphocyte count in the blood.  When the percentage in white blood cells is less than 15 percent, it can cause lymphocytopenia.

Low lymphocytes can hint at the possible underlying conditions -

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • An overactive adrenal cortex
  • Myasthenia gravis , a form of muscle weakness
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Steroids use side effects
  • Tumors
  • Guiallain-Barre syndrome – weakness in legs and arms, attributed to nerve damage

Diagnosis for high or low lymphocyte count

Abnormal lymphocyte levels indicates underlying condition that causes the symptoms that prompts a person to visit his or health care provider.  In the Complete Blood Count results, if the doctor finds abnormal lymphocytes, he or she may recommend other tests that can identify the underlying condition that causes the symptoms.  These tests are important because lymphocytes alone cannot help diagnose preexisting medical condition properly.  Once the doctor has been able to determine the medical disorder for abnormal lymphocyte count, he or she may recommend a line of treatment which can bring the lymphocytes count to normal range.

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