What are neutrophils?
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell (leukocytes) that act as your immune system’s first line of defense. There are three types of white blood cells: granulocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes. Neutrophils are a subset of granulocytes, along with eosinophils and basophils cells. Together, your white blood cells protect your body from infection and injury.
What do neutrophils do?
Think of your immune system as the general of your body’s army that works to prevent bacteria and viruses from entering. Once your white blood cells pass basic training in your bone marrow, your immune system sends their troops of mature cells (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils) to travel through your circulation system and tissues to prepare for invaders that cause illness, infection and disease. In the event of an attack on your immune system, your neutrophils are the first to the scene. Neutrophils capture and destroy the invading bacteria or microorganisms by setting traps and ingesting them. Your body will react to the battle with redness and swelling (inflammation), while your neutrophils start the tissue repair process, healing injury or damage.
Where are neutrophils located?
Neutrophils form in your bone marrow and travel throughout your body in your blood, tissues and lymph nodes.
What do neutrophils look like?
Neutrophils are clear in color. When your healthcare provider examines your cells under a microscope, a dye changes their color so they’re visible. Neutrophils have a spherical shape when at rest but change shape to fight infection.
How many neutrophils are in my body?
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells make up 1% of the cells in your body. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cell and make up anywhere from 50% to 80% of all white blood cells in your body.
Where are neutrophils made?
Neutrophils grow in your bone’s soft tissue (bone marrow) and migrate through your circulation system in your blood and tissues.
Conditions and Disorders
What are common conditions that affect neutrophils?
The number of neutrophils in your body needs to remain in a specific range to keep your body functioning normally. If your neutrophil count is too high or too low, you could acquire a condition that’s the result of your neutrophils being out of range.
These conditions are:
- Neutropenia: Neutropenia is a condition where your neutrophil count is too low, causing swelling and repeated infections. Causes of neutropenia include cancer treatment, an autoimmune disease or an infection.
- Neutrophilia: Neutrophilia, also known as neutrophilic leukocytosis, occurs when your neutrophil count is too high, which is often the result of a bacterial infection. To combat the infection, immature neutrophils leave your bone marrow too soon and enter into your bloodstream.
What are common symptoms of neutrophil conditions?
Symptoms of a neutrophil condition include:
- Repeated infections.
What causes a high neutrophil count?
In many cases, it’s normal for your body to produce more neutrophils to help you heal, especially in the case of a bone fracture or severe burn. When the number of neutrophils doesn’t decrease to normal levels after repairing an injury, it can pose a health risk. The number of neutrophils in your body may increase due to:
- Certain types of leukemia.
- Reactions to certain drugs.
What causes a low neutrophil count?
Neutropenia is the result of your body destroying neutrophils before your bone marrow can create more. Causes of a low neutrophil count include:
- Infection (hepatitis, tuberculosis, sepsis, Lyme disease).
- Bone marrow disorder (leukemia).
- Vitamin deficiency (vitamin B12, folate, copper).
- Autoimmune disease (Crohn’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis).
What is a normal range for a neutrophil count?
An absolute neutrophil count identifies how many neutrophils are in a sample of your blood. The normal range of neutrophils in a healthy adult is between 2,500 and 7,000 neutrophils per microliter of blood. Any number above 7,000 or below 2,500 puts you at risk of a neutrophil condition.
What are common tests to check the health of my neutrophils?
Tests that check the health of your neutrophils include:
- Complete blood count (CBC): A complete blood count test examines the cells in a sample of your blood that reflects how many cells are in your body. A CBC assists in diagnosing medical conditions and can be a benchmark to evaluate your overall health.
- Absolute neutrophil count (ANC): An ANC determines how many neutrophil cells are in a sample of your blood.
- Bone marrow biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy verifies how many cells your body has, along with identifying where they grow. Your healthcare provider removes and examines a small sample of your bone marrow. Cell production begins in your bone marrow, so a biopsy determines if your body is producing a healthy amount of cells or if there are certain conditions present.
What are common treatments for neutrophil conditions?
Common treatments for low and high neutrophil counts include:
- Taking antibiotics.
- Getting a bone marrow transplant.
- Changing or stopping medication that causes neutropenia.
- Taking corticosteroids if you have an autoimmune disorder.
- Treating underlying medical conditions that affect your neutrophil count.
- Getting a white blood cell transfusion.
How do I increase my neutrophil count?
If you have a low count of neutrophils, you can take steps to increase it by working with your healthcare provider to make an action plan. They might suggest:
- Changing dosage or timing of chemotherapy.
- Getting a white blood cell transfusion.
- Stopping any medication that causes a low white blood cell count.
- Taking antibiotics or drugs that promote white blood cell production.
How do I decrease my neutrophil count?
Neutrophils increase naturally to fight infection, but if your count is above normal levels, your healthcare provider will detect and treat any infection or reaction to medication that might be the cause. Treatment for infection typically involves taking antibiotics.
How do I keep my neutrophil count at a healthy level?
Take steps to keep your neutrophil count in a healthy range by avoiding infection. This includes:
- Practicing good hygiene.
- Getting the flu shot annually.
- Avoiding people who are sick.
- Eating a healthy diet.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Neutrophils are your body’s first line of defense against infection or injury. Keep your army of cells healthy by maintaining good hygiene to prevent infections, treating any injury or infections that you might have and eating a well-balanced diet.
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