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If one or more of your blood cell counts is higher or lower than normal, your doctor tries to find out why. About 5 percent of healthy people will have test results outside of the "normal" range. Many noncancerous conditions can contribute to low or high blood cell counts, such as those in the table below.

Red Cells White Cells Platelets
High counts
  • smoking
  • carbon monoxide exposure
  • chronic lung disease
  • kidney disease
  • certain forms of heart disease
  • alcoholism
  • liver disease
  • conditions that affect the body's fluid level
  • infection
  • inflammation
  • severe physical or emotional stress (such as fever, injury or surgery)
  • burns
  • kidney failure
  • lupus
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • malnutrition, thyroid problems
  • certain medicines
  • bleeding
  • mild to moderate iron deficiency
  • problems with bone marrow function
Low counts
  • anemia from too little iron, folic acid or vitamin B12
  • bleeding
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • other diseases that might cause malnutrition
  • certain drugs
  • infection
  • chemotherapy and other medicines
  • malaria
  • alcoholism
  • AIDS
  • lupus
  • enlarged spleen
  • pregnancy
  • idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
  • thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
  • hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • autoimmune diseases

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also affect blood cell counts. Measurements usually return to normal once treatment is completed.

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last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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