Low White Blood Cell Count- What does it mean?
September 16, 2016 6:16 PM   Subscribe

My husband is going to donating stem cells for an anonymous recipient through Be The Match in a few weeks. I'm very proud of him! We are concerned though about some test results he just got back during the screening process. His white blood cell count was 2.9, while we were told the average is 4.50 - 11.00.

He's going back on Monday for further testing (why do these things always happen on the weekend?!) I should mention that in the 10 years I've been with him, he's gotten sick MAYBE once. I don't think he's ever gone to the doctor at all. To me, that doesn't really fit the profile of someone with low WBC count, but I could be mistaken.

I'm just looking for some insight into what this might mean, if this could be a fluke, etc. We are currently trying to start a family, so I think I'm much much more on edge about this than I would be usually. It also doesn't help that I had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma a few years back, so this sort of thing honestly sets off a bit of anxiety from those very difficult days. Thanks for any information anyone can give!
posted by afton to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just want to say that my very, very ill bestie has been in almost weekly blood testing for 3.5 years, and one thing I've learned during that process is that mistakes are sometimes made. Whether the mistake comes from a computer or a technician interpreting something through a microscope or just some unknown anomaly that'll never be explained, these things do happen.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:29 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have had anomalously high and low white blood cell count, and my doctor said it isn't a concern unless it's consistently high or low. He said it naturally varies, particularly if you've recently been fighting off a bug (which may or may not cause noticeable symptoms). So I would say don't worry until/unless a doctor tells you something worrisome is happening.

I also have seen my SO going through a lot of tests and seeing a lot of specialists recently, and varying Doctor reactions from "Wow you're REALLY ill" to "you probably don't even have [syndrome] but we'll do some more tests and see if you need any symptom management" (latter from the expert in [syndrome] at one of the best regional hospitals). So tests are good and all, but they can be wrong, and they are only meaningful in context.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am not a doctor, but I got a very similar result a few years ago and spent a bad weekend waiting to speak to my doctor. In the end, no problems. This was a Dutch doctor so not very given to doing tests, but what he said was they really only start testing if there is a reason to worry (symptoms) or if it is persistent over time. And indeed, it was fine.
posted by frumiousb at 6:45 PM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I get tested every year and my counts are lower than average every single time. Like your husband, I hardly ever get sick. My doctor says that some people just have low white blood cell counts.
posted by christa at 9:26 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those above are probably right, but is he on any medications leading up to the procedure? My dad had a stem cell transplant years ago (harvesting his own cells and reintroducing them) and one of the drugs he was on caused his white blood count to bottom out. It was a rare but not unheard of reaction to one of the drugs, but unfortunately I don't remember what drug.

If it keeps dropping, you might want to ask about it.
posted by scrute at 10:38 PM on September 16, 2016

Is he black or Middle Eastern? If so it could be benign ethnic neutropenia - a normal ethnic variation (this is usually well known by medical staff working in areas with a diverse population but might be less well recognised if where you live isn't very diverse).
posted by *becca* at 7:23 AM on September 17, 2016

I once had a low white blood count in a blood test for no obvious reason. The docs were very laid back about it and took another test a couple of weeks later and it was fine. They said it happens if you get a cold or bug or whatever, and the only cause for concern is (as stated above) it remains low over time. Looking back, I'd been recovering from a cold the first time.
posted by penguin pie at 8:05 AM on September 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

for what it' worth, I've had the same experience as penguin pie
posted by Skipjack at 8:16 AM on September 17, 2016

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