High eosinophil count: What are the causes?

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High eosinophil count: What are the causes?

Question

What causes a high eosinophil count?

Jana
Arizona

Answer

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell. A normal eosinophil count is less than 350 cells per microliter of blood. The exact role of eosinophils in your body is unclear, but eosinophils are usually associated with allergic diseases and certain infections. Potential causes of a high eosinophil count include:

  • Eczema
  • Leukemia
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Parasitic infestations
  • Side effect of drugs, such as amphetamines, tranquilizers, bulk-type laxatives containing psyllium and certain antibiotics

Rarely, your eosinophil count increases for no apparent reason. Doctors refer to this as hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES).

Treatment of a high eosinophil count depends on the underlying cause, if known. Some people with HES who have eosinophil counts benefit from imatinib (Gleevec). Without treatment, high numbers of eosinophils can accumulate in the heart and other organs, which can lead to nerve damage, heart failure, lung disease and blood clots.

Last Updated: 04/23/2007
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