Your body’s immune system has an intricate defense mechanism. This system is capable of detecting a wide range of disease-causing agents – also called as pathogens. The innate sub-system of this defense mechanism has a certain type of white cells known as eosinophils. These cells create an effective barrier against infections as well as parasites. These cells exert control over your body’s reactions to asthma and other allergies.
Eosinophils are produced in bone marrow and these cells get into your blood to reach tissues all over the body. Eosinophils are essentially immunity-boosting white cells of your blood. They are known to fight infection caused by viral attacks as well as bacteria. Eosinophils make your immune system to respond to many types of external threats, including infections. The reactions these cells can trigger include stimulating inflammation as a response to counter external threats as well as to minimize the attacks of invading microbes.
Of the many types of white cells made in your bone marrow, eosinophils can survive for a few weeks. This is noteworthy because several other types of white cells do not last more than a few days. This type of white cells is found in almost all parts of your body. Once these cells perish, your bone marrow continues to supply needful levels to ensure your body is amply protected.
Eosinophils count test
Count of eosinophils can be a critical indicator to the overall wellbeing of your body. An increase in its count means your body is actively fighting an infection. The role played by eosinophils is under active study by several teams of medical researchers. Many of these studies substantiate that eosinophils may have a role to play in almost every function of your body.
The two-pronged action of eosinophils is also coming under greater scrutiny. Of the dual functions eosinophils perform, inflammatory response and side effects on tissues closer to the invaded part of the body are studied with active interest. It may be noted that eosinophils are associated with your body’s inflammation as a response to conditions such as eczema, allergic conditions like respiratory disorders like bronchitis, asthmatic attack, etc. Also, the ability of eosinophils to defend against a host of pathogens – including multicellular parasites such as worms as well as microbial organisms like bacteria or viruses – is another case in point.
A regular blood test can reveal the count of these white cells. This test is called as complete blood count – or in short, CBC. The blood count helps you to know the count of each type of blood cells. The differential approach to the CBC is administered when your doctor aims to confirm likely infections of pathogens or an allergic condition. At times, the count may also be done to check if there are any bodily reactions to persistent intake of some drugs.
How is the eosinophils count test done?
This is done by taking a sample of your blood. Soon after taking a sample, the site from it was taken is cleaned with an antiseptic gel or fluid. Once needful sample is taken, the vial is sent to a laboratory for processing. Though there are no specific preparations for this test, you may need to tell your doctor if you are taking any antibiotics, blood thinning drugs – such as aspirin or warfarin, sleep inducing medicines or laxatives (especially those containing psyllium). Some anti-infective drugs can also increase the count of eosinophils. Hence, it becomes necessary to inform beforehand about intake of such drugs.
Normal range of eosinophil count
Eosinophil count is recommended when any of the parameters of a regular blood test is abnormal. A value between 50 to 375 / cubic millimeters of blood is considered as normal count. It is still taken as a normal condition if the count reaches 500 per cubic millimeters of blood among adults. It is only when the count breaches the level of 500 per cubic millimetres it turns into a medical condition.
An abnormal count can either be a lower or higher value when compared to the normal level. A lower count of eosinophils can indicate an excessive production of cortisol; this is often linked to the incidence of a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol production by your adrenal glands can escalate due to alcohol dependence, mood swings and if you are experiencing a very high level of anxiety or stress. If low counts of eosinophils are observed, your doctor may check the count of the other types of white cells. If other white cells are also abnormal, it is a matter of serious concern. Your doctor may recommend a few tests to understand the reasons behind such abnormal counts. In such cases, health of your bone marrow may be an area to focus upon.
A higher count of eosinophils in your blood is termed as eosinophilia. This condition can show up in three possible levels namely, a mild level – this level has a count of 500 to 1,500 cells per cubic millimeters; a moderate level – here, it is between 1,500 to 5,000 cells per cubic millimeters and a severe level – wherein the count is more than 5,000 cells per cubic millimeters. The mildly higher count – i.e., 500 to 1,500 cells per cubic millimeters is not known to trigger any major signs. However, the moderate and severe levels can be injurious to your body.
Possible implications of a higher count of eosinophils
The count of eosinophils can be high if you are experiencing an infection of a parasite, respiratory problems such as asthma or incidence of cancers. In some cases, it can also be due to a few allergic reactions or an autoimmune medical condition. In some rare instances, it can be due to a condition called hyper-eosinophilic wherein your doctor may not find any infectious microbes or parasites, allergens, etc. The other possible causes for a higher count of eosinophils include lupus, Crohn’s disease, leukemia, colitis (ulcerative), scarlet fever or rejection of organ transplanted through a surgical procedure.
Lupus is categorized as an autoimmune condition; it shows up as inflammation. Its signs can be the same as several other conditions and hence are easy to be missed. Common signs include excessive tiredness, rashes on skin, fever, dehydration, etc.
Crohn’s disease is a disorder that affects your bowel. Though it can show up in any part of your digestive tract, it is more rampant in your colon as well as small intestine. The causes are still difficult to ascertain. Its key signs include blood in stools, indigestion, diarrhea, cramping of abdominal muscles, etc.
Leukemia is a cancerous growth of cells in blood. Though cells in your blood are of multiple types – namely, white cells, red cells and platelets – leukemia often refers to cancers of your white blood cells. As white cells are mainly responsible for your immunity levels, an autoimmune condition can lead to serious implications. The common signs of this type of cancer are loss of body weight, red patches on skin, turning more vulnerable to infections, etc.
Colitis occurs when the walls of your colon (large intestine) or rectum are swollen. This swelling may turn into ulcers, which may lead to bleeding as well as formation of pus. Common signs of this condition are pain in your rectum, cramps in your abdomen, diarrhea, loss of body weight, etc.
Scarlet fever is a condition that often accompanies a strep throat. This is because it is the same bacterial strand that causes both these medical conditions. Scarlet fever is known to affect children and young adults. Its key signs include discoloration of tongue, high degree of fever, pain in abdomen, etc.
Apart from the above, a skin condition called eczema can also trigger an increase in the count of eosinophils. This condition is predominantly seen among children; some adults have also reported to have been affected by it. It is characterized by dryness of skin as well as itchiness or discoloration.
Other things to consider when you have an abnormal count of eosinophils
You may need to remember that within a day, the count of eosinophils can vary. In general, the count of eosinophils is high during the evening times while this count is at its lowest level at the morning hours. Persistent high levels of eosinophils can cause damages to your tissues. A condition known as eosinophilic esophagitis results in a high count of white cells in your food pipe. A similar condition is eosinophilic colitis which shows up as a higher count in your intestine – especially, your large intestine. Such higher concentration of eosinophils has been observed in many other organs such as stomach, blood, small intestine, etc. There had also been one-off instances wherein concentration of eosinophils has been found to be more in muscles than in blood.
But, if your higher count is due to an incidence of an autoimmune disease, intake of immunosuppressant drugs as well as a few changes in your habits is recommended. If the abnormal count is due to an infection, a medical plan is prescribed to alleviate invading pathogens. These medical plans are in general found to be effective in restoring the normal count.
In sum, eosinophils are made at the bone marrow. They are essentially white cells of your blood. These white cells trigger an inflammation to counter external threats like microbial invasions or infections. These cells are found in all parts of the body. If these cells cease to exist, your bone marrow starts supplying newer cells to keep your body protected from external threats or allergies.