Monocytes are mature, large white blood cells containing only one nucleus. These cells are among the most active phagocytes in peripheral blood. If the blood test showed that monocytes are elevated - you have monocytosis, the lowered level is called monocytopenia.
In addition to blood, monocytes are also found in large volumes in the bone marrow, spleen, liver sinuses, alveolar walls and lymph nodes. In the blood, they are not for long - just a few days, after which they move into the surrounding tissues, where they reach their maturity. There is a transformation of monocytes into histocytes - tissue macrophages.
The number of monocytes is one of the most important indicators when deciphering a blood test. In adults, an increase in the number of monocytes in the general blood test is observed for a wide variety of ailments, separately considered: infectious, granulomatous and skin diseases, as well as collagenoses, which include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, nodular polyarthritis.
The role of monocytes in the body
What are monocytes for, what does it mean? Monocytes are white blood cells, leukocytes, which also belong to phagocytes. This means that they eat germs and bacteria that enter the body and thus get rid of them. But not only.
The task of monocytes also includes the purification of the “battlefield” from other dead leukocytes, due to which inflammation decreases and tissues begin to regenerate. Well, and finally, monocytes perform another important function in the body: they produce interferon and prevent the development of all kinds of tumors.
An important indicator in the blood is the ratio of monocytes and leukocytes. Normally, the percentage of monocytes to all blood leukocytes is from 4 to 12%. The change of this ratio in the direction of increasing in medicine is called relative monocytosis. In contrast to this case, an increase in the total number of monocytes in human blood is also possible. Physicians call such a pathological condition absolute monocytosis.
The rates of monocytes in the blood are slightly different for adults and children.
- In a child, the rate of monocytes in the blood test is about 2-7% of the total number of leukocytes. It should be borne in mind that the absolute number of monocytes in children changes with age, in parallel with the change in the number of leukocytes.
- In an adult, the normal amount of monocytes in the blood is 1-8% of the total number of leukocytes. In absolute numbers it is 0.04-0.7 * 109 / l.
Any deviation from the norm in the number of monocytes in the blood test can indicate the presence of malfunctions and diseases in the body.
Causes of elevated monocytes in an adult
If monocytes are elevated in the blood of an adult, this means the presence of monocytosis, which is relative and absolute. With the relative nature of monocytosis in the blood, the level of other leukocytes also decreases, and with absolute, only the number of monocytes increases. The cause of the increase in the relative content of blood cells may be neutropenia or lymphocytopenia.
Elevated levels of monocytes in the blood can indicate the presence of:
- Infectious processes caused by bacteria (endocarditis, tuberculosis, syphilis, malaria, brucellosis, typhoid fever), or viruses (mononucleosis, hepatitis);
- Some diseases of the hematopoietic system (first of all, monocytic and myelomonocytic leukemia);
- Some quite physiological states (after eating, at the end of menstruation in women, in children up to 7 years, etc.);
- The ingestion (often in the respiratory tract) of substances of a non-infectious (and often inorganic) nature;
- Malignant neoplastic diseases;
- Collagenoses (systemic lupus erythematosus - SLE, rheumatism);
- Stages of recovery from infections and other acute conditions:
- Suffered surgery.
An increase in the level of monocytes in the blood is an alarming symptom. He can talk about the presence in the body of the inflammatory process, other serious diseases. If the complete blood count shows monocyte levels above normal, consultation with a physician and additional examination is necessary to determine the cause of the changes.
Elevated monocytes in a child
What does it mean? The appearance of monocytosis in children is also often associated with infections, especially viral infections. As you know, children with viral infections get sick more often than adults, and monocytosis at the same time suggests that the body is taken with the infection.
Monocytosis in a child can also occur in case of helminthic invasions (ascariasis, enterobiasis, and so on), after the helminths are removed from the child’s body, monocytosis disappears. Tuberculosis in children is currently rare, however, the presence of monocytosis should be alarming in this regard.
It can also be caused by cancer in a child - lymphogranulomatosis and leukemia.
What to do with elevated monocytes?
When monocytes in the blood are elevated, treatment depends primarily on the cause of this phenomenon. Of course, it is easier to cure monocytosis, which arose due to non-serious diseases, such as fungus.
However, when it comes to leukemia or cancer, the treatment will be a high content of monocytes in the blood and heavy, primarily aimed not at lowering the level of monocytes, but at getting rid of the main symptoms of a serious illness.