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Details of Absolute Monocyte Count
What are absolute monocytes, also known as abs monocytes?
When you get a comprehensive blood test that includes a complete blood count, you may notice a measurement for monocytes, a type of white blood cell. It’s often listed as “monocytes (absolute)” because it’s presented as an absolute number.
You may also see monocytes noted as a percentage of your white blood cell count, rather than an absolute number.
Monocytes and other kinds of white blood cells are necessary to help the body fight disease and infection. Low levels can result from certain medical treatments or bone marrow problems, while high levels can indicate the presence of chronic infections or an autoimmune disease.
What do monocytes do?
Monocytes are the largest of the white blood cells and are three to four times the size of red blood cells. These big, powerful defenders aren’t plentiful in the bloodstream, but they’re vital in protecting the body against infections.
Monocytes move throughout the bloodstream to tissues in the body, where they transform into macrophages, a different kind of white blood cell.
Macrophages kill microorganisms and fight cancer cells. They also work with other white blood cells to remove dead cells and support the body’s immune system against foreign substances and infections.
One way macrophages do this is by signaling to other cell types that there is an infection. Together, several types of white blood cells then work to fight off the infection.
How monocytes are made
Monocytes from in bone marrow from myelomonocytic stem cells before entering the bloodstream. They travel throughout the body for a few hours before entering the tissue of organs, such as the spleen, liver, and lungs, as well as bone marrow tissue.
Monocytes rest until they’re activated to become macrophages. Exposure to pathogens (disease-causing substances) can start the process of a monocyte becoming a macrophage. Once fully activated, a macrophage can release toxic chemicals that kill harmful bacteria or infected cells.
Absolute monocytes range
Typically, monocytes make up 2 to 8 percent of the total white blood cell count.
Absolute monocyte test results can range slightly, depending on the method used for the test and other factors. According to Allina Health, a non-profit healthcare system, normal results for absolute monocytes fall into these ranges:
Men tend to have higher monocyte counts than women.
While having levels that are higher or lower than that range aren’t necessarily dangerous, they may indicate an underlying condition that needs to be evaluated.
Monocyte levels fall or rise depending on what’s going on with the body’s immune system. Checking these levels is an important way to monitor your body’s immunity.
High absolute monocyte count
The body may make more monocytes once an infection is detected or if the body has an autoimmune disease. If you have an autoimmune disease, cells such as monocytes go after healthy cells in your body by mistake. People with chronic infections tend to have elevated levels of monocytes, too.
Common conditions that could lead to a spike in abs monocytes include:
sarcoidosis, a disease in which abnormal levels of inflammatory cells gather in multiple organs of the body
chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease
leukemia and other types of cancer, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma
autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Interestingly, low levels of monocytes can be the result of autoimmune diseases, too.
Low absolute monocyte count
Low levels of monocytes tend to develop as a result of medical conditions that lower your overall white blood cell count or treatments for cancer and other serious diseases that suppress the immune system.
Causes of low absolute monocyte count include:
chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can injure bone marrow
HIV and AIDS, which weaken the body’s immune system
sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream