What Does a High Monocyte Count Mean?

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Monocytes perform important functions in your body. These cells are a part of your immune system, and they help destroy the organisms that might make you sick. They also help to heal damaged or infected cells. A high count could be a sign that you’re fighting off infection or suffering from illness or inflammation.

Want to learn more? We’ve gathered some of the most important facts you need to know about monocytes, including what a high monocyte count could mean.

What Are Monocytes?

Monocytes are one of five types of white blood cells, which are the cells that help you fight off infections. They originate in your bone marrow and circulate throughout the bloodstream, attacking viruses, bacteria and germs to help keep you healthy. Monocytes not only get rid of invaders, they also help your body heal and repair itself. According to

VeryWellHealth, they account for up to 10 percent of the white blood cells circulating in a healthy person.

What Do Monocytes Do?

Monocytes typically transform into dendritic cells or macrophages. Dendritic cells in human tissues work together with T lymphocytes, the white blood cells that let your body’s immune system respond differently to different types of bacteria, viruses or other organisms that cause disease. Macrophages can quickly move to areas of inflammation to fight infection, sweep away debris and infected cells, and get rid of bacteria and viruses.

Types of Monocytes

Until recently, monocytes were thought of as macrophage or dendritic. Scientists have discovered that monocytes break down into three subsets: classical, non-classical and intermediate. Classical monocytes make up around 90 percent of all the monocytes in your body, while intermediate and non-classical make up the other 10 percent. Researchers are unsure of whether the different types of monocytes function differently within the immune system and how their roles vary in health and disease, according to

Frontiers in Immunology.

Why Doctors Monitor Monocytes

Doctors order blood tests known as complete blood counts, which evaluate different components of your blood. This includes white blood cells. The

Mayo Clinic notes that this blood test could be done for any number of reasons, including:

  • Monitoring your overall health
  • Screening you for disorders like anemia (low red blood cell count) or leukemia (a type of cancer that occurs in blood-forming cells)
  • Diagnosing medical conditions causing symptoms like inflammation, fatigue or fever
  • Monitoring medical conditions that affect your blood cell counts
  • Monitoring medical treatments that may impact blood cells

Normal Monocyte Values

If you get blood test results, most labs provide a normal range so you can see how your results match up.

Medical News Today describes the normal range of monocytes as anywhere from 2 to 8 percent. Normal levels can vary depending on age and gender, which is why it’s important to speak with your doctor to figure out what the values mean for you.

What Does a High Monocyte Count Indicate?

So, what does it mean if your monocyte count is high? The condition, which is called monocytosis, indicates that your body is likely fighting something off, according to

Healthline. Potential causes include chronic infections like tuberculosis and chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, for example. Other causes include:

  • Viral infections like mumps or measles
  • Parasitic infections
  • Blood disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Certain cancers, such as monocytic leukemia

Research suggests that high monocyte counts could give doctors a view into your heart health. Additionally, in some cases, the balance of monocytes with other white blood cells may provide some information. For example, high monocyte counts paired with low lymphocyte counts appear to be a good indicator of ulcerative colitis, according to a

2015 study.