Can Psoriasis Cause High White Blood Cell Count?

February 9, 2024

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Psoriasis is a common autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches. It affects around 8 million Americans, according to recent statistics from the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). For those living with psoriasis, inflammation is often a significant concern. This inflammation stems from an overactive immune system response, which can also lead some people with psoriasis to have increased white blood cell counts. But what does that really mean, and should it be cause for concern?

Understanding White Blood Cells and High Counts

White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are an important part of the immune system. They help defend the body against infection and disease. There are several types of white blood cells, including lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes and eosinophils.

Doctors can measure a patient’s white blood cell count from a blood sample. The normal range for healthy adults is usually between 4,000 and 11,000 white blood cells per microliter. If the count is above 11,000, it is generally considered a high white blood cell count, clinically referred to as leukocytosis.

Table 1. Reference ranges for high white blood cell counts

Type of White Blood CellNormal RangeHigh Count Considered
Total WBCs4,000-11,000 per μL>11,000 per μL
Neutrophils2,000-7,700 per μL>7,700 per μL
Lymphocytes1,000-4,800 per μL>4,800 per μL

Some key points about high white blood cell counts:

  • They indicate some kind of inflammation, infection, or immune response
  • They are often temporary and return to normal range with treatment
  • Very high counts over 30,000 require prompt evaluation
  • Specific types like neutrophils or lymphocytes may drive high total counts

High White Blood Cell Counts and Psoriasis

Given psoriasis is underpinned by inflammation and overactive immune activity, some research shows a correlation between psoriasis and mildly high white blood cell counts. However, there are a few important notes about this relationship:

  • Not all people with psoriasis develop high white blood cell counts
  • When they do occur they are often only mildly or moderately elevated
  • The magnitude of elevation does not necessarily correlate with psoriasis severity
  • Counts seem to be higher during active flares vs periods of remission
  • Specific types of white blood cells like neutrophils tend to drive high counts

So in summary, yes psoriasis can potentially contribute to increases in certain white blood cell lineups for some patients. However, it varies substantially on an individual basis.

Researchers propose a few explanations for why some people with psoriasis develop high white blood cell counts:

  • The underlying inflammatory processes: Chronic inflammation activates bone marrow to produce more white blood cells
  • Response to skin lesions: The immune system reacts to rapid, excessive skin cell turnover
  • Genetic factors: Certain genetic mutations associated with psoriasis risk also increase leukocyte activity
  • Lifestyle factors: Obesity, smoking, and stress can contribute by fueling inflammation

Is This Something to Worry About?

Mild to moderate elevations in white blood cell counts due to psoriasis are generally not a major medical concern. However, very high counts may warrant further attention, especially if other symptoms are present like fever, fatigue or infection.

There are pros and cons to consider:

Potential Pros

  • Indicates an active, robust immune response
  • May help diagnose and monitor psoriasis severity
  • Values often decrease with effective psoriasis treatment

Potential Cons

  • Can signify heightened inflammation long-term
  • May eventually promote cardiovascular risks
  • Very high counts can rarely suggest leukemia

Overall there is still much to learn about connections between psoriasis, immune activity markers like white blood cell counts, and associated health impacts. But so far research suggests mild elevations are common and not inherently dangerous in most patients.

Key Takeaways

  • Psoriasis, as an inflammatory autoimmune condition, can indeed contribute to high white blood cell counts in some patients
  • However, degrees of elevation vary widely and may correlate with disease activity
  • Mild to moderate high counts are generally not dangerous, but require monitoring
  • Very high leukocyte counts may warrant further immune evaluation
  • Effective holistic treatment of psoriasis can help mitigate abnormal white blood cell spikes

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some common questions related to psoriasis and high white blood cell counts:

Does treating psoriasis help normalize white blood cell counts?

Yes, getting psoriasis under control through medications, light therapy, or holistic methods often helps mitigate excessive immune responses over time. As skin cell turnover and inflammation calms down, so may activated white blood cells.

What lifestyle changes can help lower counts?

Losing weight, quitting smoking, managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and getting regular exercise may support healthy immune regulation in those with psoriasis and related high white blood cell metrics.

Should I be concerned about leukemia if my counts are high?

In the vast majority of cases, mildly or moderately high counts will naturally come back down into normal range and are not indicative of leukemia. However, very high totals above 30,000, or a progressive trend upwards, warrants medical assessment for other factors that could influence bone marrow and blood cell production.

Can reducing inflammation help normalize white blood cell counts?

Yes, addressing sources of inflammation is key. Whether through skin-directed psoriasis therapies, systemic medications, or complementary approaches like dietary measures or stress reduction techniques, calming systemic inflammation can help take pressure off the overworked immune system.

How often should white blood cell counts be monitored in those with psoriasis?

There are no hard guidelines around frequency of monitoring, but getting periodic bloodwork to track white blood cell counts as part of psoriasis follow-up care is reasonable. Many clinicians advocate for checks every 6 to 12 months for stable patients when disease is well-managed. Testing during active flares also helps gauge whether abnormal immune activity signifies relapse.

In Conclusion

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition tied to immune dysfunction, so increases in certain white blood cells can occasionally occur. Mild to moderate elevations are generally temporary and not dangerous, but require surveillance. Very high counts may warrant further immunological investigation. Getting psoriasis under control is key, as effective management of the root drivers can help settle inflammatory pathways and related high leukocyte counts. Monitoring through occasional blood tests provides useful data points in tracking disease status over the long haul.

References

  1. https://www.psoriasis.org/psoriasis-statistics/
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/white-blood-cell-counts
  3. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=white_blood_cell_count
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33141537/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8305667/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28200960/
  7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/exd.12618
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738081X18301968
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