High Monocytes – Exploring The Causes For Elevated Monocytes In Your Blood

Have you recently done a blood analysis and received a result that stated a high monocyte count, or do you know someone who got back a high mono blood test? The different medical terms regarding our complex blood count can indeed get a little confusing: monocytes, hemoglobin, erythrocytes (red blood cells), hematocrit, lymphocytes, cholesterol, and many more. A high monocyte count, known as monocytosis, can indicate various underlying health issues. But rest assured, there are also potentially innocent reasons why you might have received a high mono blood test. In this article, CARE will delve into the causes of high monocytes, shedding light on the potential factors behind this condition, and we will explain to you in detail what monocytes are and what responsibility they have for your body.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
11 min read · Jan 12, 2024

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What Are Monocytes? — VIPs Of The Immune System

Monocytes are a vital component of your body's immune system. They are a specific type of white blood cell and play a distinctive role in defending your body against infections and maintaining tissue health. So, if monocytes are a particular type of white blood cell, this means there are different types of white blood cells? Yes.

White blood cells, medically known as leukocytes, include neutrophils, lymphocytes (T cells/T lymphocytes and B cells), eosinophils, basophils, and monocytes. Each type of white blood cell has a distinct role in your immune system's defense against infections and diseases. [1]

Monocytes comprise 2 to 8% of your white blood cell count. [2]

The monocytes are versatile immune cells characterized by their large, kidney-shaped nuclei (a central part of an atom that controls its growth). They can engulf and digest pathogens, cellular debris, and foreign substances. You can imagine them like the VIPs of your immune system, fighting for your health. [1]

Monocytes are produced in your bone marrow, and they circulate in your bloodstream. There, they can quickly migrate into tissues when needed. Once monocytes enter the tissues, they undergo a transformation into macrophages. Macrophages are larger cells with the capacity for phagocytosis, which is the process of engulfing and digesting pathogens, cellular debris, and foreign substances. It might be interesting for you to know that monocytes and macrophages recognize the antibodies attached to pathogens and engulf the pathogen-antibody complex more efficiently. This is an important aspect in the elimination of pathogens from your body. [1]

Do you have a high monocyte count and are concerned about the implications? There are several reasons you can have a high monocyte count, and first and foremost, you should remain calm.

We know that most doctors and health professionals do not take the time to explain blood analysis results to you in detail or easily understandable. The lack of transparency and explanation of blood results is one of the reasons why we founded CARE. Healthcare systems worldwide are designed to treat sick people, and there is no real port of call for staying healthy – at least before we founded CARE.

CARE advises you while you're healthy and makes sure you stay healthy or even improve your health. Our digital tools and top-notch laboratories facilitate access to health data and enable a frictionless experience that enables early detection of diseases and an extension of your health span.

CARE’s health professionals and doctors provide you with a personal and detailed consultation. They take the time to explain your blood count results to you and give you guidance on how to improve your health and wellness.

But let's get back to the topic of this article: a high absolute monocyte count.

What is even considered a high monocyte count?

What is Considered A High Monocyte Count?

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Monocytes are measured as part of a complete blood count (CBC), which provides valuable insights into a person's overall health. Now, we will explain the standard reference ranges for monocytes and explain to you when a monocyte count is considered high.

A normal count of monocytes ranges between 2 and 8% monocytes of your white blood cell count, which equals about 200 to 800 monocytes per microliter of blood in healthy adults. [2]

On your blood analysis, this normal range would show up like this: 0.2 – 0.8 x10^9/L.

Monocytosis refers to too many monocytes in your blood. [3] Anything above 0.8 x10^9/L can be considered a high monocyte count.

On the other hand, if your absolute monocytes are too low and fall under 0.2 x 10^9/L, your monocytes will be considered too low – this condition is known as monocytopenia. You can read all about this condition in CARE’s article about monocytopenia.

The Meaning of Elevated Monocytes – What Causes Your Monocyte Count To Be High?

There are instances when the monocyte count surpasses its normal range, leaving you with an elevated monocyte count. This might raise a myriad of questions and leave you behind concerned about your health. The human body is a complex and finely tuned system, and a deviation from the norm can be caused by various scenarios.

But is an elevated monocyte count a cause for alarm? What underlying factors might contribute to this increase in monocytes? We will find out about the potential causes for high monocytes now.

Are You Suffering From A Cold? — Infections Increase Monocytes

One of the most common reasons for elevated monocyte counts is the presence of infections. Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can trigger an increase in monocyte production as your body attempts to combat the invading pathogens. If you suffer from the flu or a cold or have recently recovered from an infection, this might explain your elevated monocyte count.

Chronic infections, such as tuberculosis or HIV, can lead to persistent monocytosis.

Do You Have A Scratched Knee? Inflammatory Conditions

Did you recently bruise yourself, or maybe you strained an ankle? Inflammation is a natural and vital process of your immune system to heal wounds and prevent infections. Even a scratched knee, therefore, might lead to elevated monocytes because your body is healing your injury or strain.

There are also various chronic inflammatory conditions, such as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, that can stimulate the release of monocytes from the bone marrow, contributing to high monocyte counts.

Are You A Busy Bee? — Stress and Chronic Illness

Physical and emotional stress, as well as chronic illnesses, can lead to monocytosis. The body's response to stressors may involve an increased production of monocytes as part of the immune response.

If you are not suffering from a chronic illness and still have elevated mono levels, make some time in your schedule to relax. Stress is not good for your health and can increase your monocytes count.

Smoking — Toxins Increase Your Monocytes

Smoking tobacco has been associated with elevated monocyte counts. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can stimulate the release of monocytes from your bone marrow, contributing to higher levels in the bloodstream.

This response typically resolves upon smoking cessation. So, maybe you should consider quitting smoking.

Serious Medical Conditions — Bone Marrow Disorders & Blood Disorders

Disorders affecting the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndrome or leukemia, can result in abnormal monocyte production.

These conditions should always be evaluated and managed by a medical professional.

Symptoms & Risks – What Are The Risk Factors For High Monocyte Levels?

While high monocytes themselves may not always pose an immediate threat and can also be caused by a common cold, understanding the underlying risks can help you to better manage and address your high mono blood test.

CARE will now highlight some health conditions or lifestyle choices that might make you more prone to develop monocytosis. We will also highlight how high monocyte levels might affect your health.

Having A Fever – Wash Your Hands & Be Cautious Of Infections

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Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites are common triggers for elevated monocyte counts. You might be more prone to developing monocytosis if you are at higher risk for infections because you have a weakened immune system.

If you have a job that implicates increased contact with many people, you might be at a higher risk of contracting infections. Wash your hands frequently to avoid getting infected. Getting a fever is a common symptom of monocytosis. Infections, particularly bacterial or viral, can cause an increase in monocyte production. As the body fights off these pathogens, fever is a common symptom. [4]

Joint Pain & Swelling — Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Crohn's disease, are associated with persistent inflammation in the body. A chronic inflammation can stimulate the production and release of monocytes from your bone marrow, leading to elevated monocyte counts.

Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can lead to both elevated monocytes and joint pain. Conditions characterized by inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease, may lead to symptoms like abdominal pain and swelling. Even skin rashes can occur due to the elevated monocyte count in your blood.

Fatigue & Stress – Adapt Your Lifestyle

Psychological and physical stress can activate the body's stress response, causing an increase in monocyte production as part of the immune reaction. Chronic stress or conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and stressful lifestyles can lead to high mono counts. [2]

The stress and high mono count can take up much of your body’s energy, which is why a common symptom of high monocytes is fatigue and low energy.

Monocyte Levels Blood Test – How Is It Done?

Let's delve into the process of testing your monocyte levels, which may appear abstract at first glance.

It all commences with a straightforward blood draw. Drawing blood is a routine procedure a healthcare professional conducts, typically in a physician's office, clinical setting, or one of our state-of-the-art CARE facilities.

A fine needle is gently inserted into a vein in your arm, allowing a small quantity of your blood to be collected into a sterile tube.

Your blood sample now embarks on a journey to a laboratory, where it undergoes a meticulous analysis. There, dedicated laboratory technicians work diligently to prepare your sample for testing, treating it with the utmost care as it holds the secrets of your monocytes.

Among the numerous parameters assessed in your blood, the Complete Blood Count (CBC) plays a pivotal role in the analysis. This comprehensive test offers valuable insights into various blood components, including your monocytes. It quantifies the proportion and quantity of monocytes in your blood, providing a snapshot of your immune health. [5]

Within the CBC, there's a dedicated section for white blood cells, where monocytes are categorized as well. In this segment, the various types of white blood cells—neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils—are meticulously counted and analyzed.

This differential count aids in identifying any imbalances in your white blood cell populations.

Once the analysis is finalized, your healthcare provider receives a comprehensive report detailing your blood test results. Typically, normal monocyte levels fall within the specific range we previously discussed (between 2 and 8% of your white blood cells). Deviations from this range may indicate a potential issue with your immune system or overall health. [5]

If your monocyte levels are either too low or too high, it becomes necessary to investigate potential underlying causes. This may involve further tests, diagnostic evaluations, or the development of a personalized treatment plan in consultation with your healthcare provider.

In cases where no serious underlying cause or illness is detected for a low monocyte count, our team at CARE is here to provide guidance on different strategies and lifestyle choices that can help you raise your monocyte count and elevate your overall health.

What Can I Do To Lower My Monocyte Count?

The most effective way to lower your monocyte count is to address and treat the root cause of your monocytosis. If you have been diagnosed with monocytosis, it's essential to understand it is typically a symptom of an underlying condition that you should be aware of – be it a cold or a more severe issue like bone marrow disease.

First and foremost, consult a healthcare provider who can conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your monocytosis.

Once a diagnosis is established, follow your doctor's prescribed treatment plan diligently. This may involve taking medications, undergoing therapies, or making lifestyle changes. Compliance with your treatment plan is essential for effective management of severe causes of monocytosis.

If you already know the cause of the high monocytes in your blood, there are easy and safe ways to aid your body in achieving a more balanced monocyte count.

Most importantly, adopting a healthy lifestyle can support your immune system and overall health, positively affecting your monocyte levels. CARE has curated some strategies to lower your monocyte count and help out your immune defenses.

Eating Healthy — A Nutrient-Dense Diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is good for your general health since it helps your body to work properly.

Since our dietary intake impacts every biological process in our body, your body's immune system relies on various nutrients to function optimally. Ensure your diet is rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients support the production and function of monocytes. [2]

Channeling Sporty Spice – Physical Exercise Reduces Inflammation

Exercise can help balance monocytes and improve their proper function. [6]

Engaging in regular physical activity to reduce inflammation and improve overall health is a good strategy to stay healthy.

Relax & Unwind A Little – Managing Stress

Stress is bad for your health, your quality of life, and, obviously, your mood. Chronic stress can even negatively impact your immune system as well, including monocyte production and function. [2]

Try to introduce stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or journaling into your life or anything that brings you joy to help manage stress effectively.

Surround yourself with people and activities that make you happy.

Quit Smoking — Toxins Increase Monocyte Production

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The path to quitting smoking is undoubtedly challenging, as nicotine addiction can be formidable. However, the benefits of quitting extend far beyond lower monocyte levels. Smoking is a potent trigger of inflammation throughout the body. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to chronic inflammation in the lungs.

This chronic inflammation sends signals to the bone marrow, encouraging the production of more monocytes to help combat the perceived threat. As a result, smokers often have higher monocyte levels than non-smokers. [7]

Smoking, once seen as a fashionable habit, has evolved into a well-documented public health crisis. It is no longer a secret that smoking is detrimental to one's health, leading to a plethora of serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). So, please stop smoking for your own good.

What Are Typical Treatments For High Monocytes?

The treatment options for high monocytes, medically known as monocytosis, primarily depend on identifying and addressing the underlying cause of your elevated monocytes count.

If an infection is causing your high monocyte count, the primary focus will be on treating the infection. This may involve antibiotics for bacterial infections, antiviral medications for viral infections, or antifungal drugs for fungal infections. Once the infection is resolved, your monocyte count should return to normal.

In cases where chronic inflammation or autoimmune diseases are responsible for monocytosis, the treatment often involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic agents, or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and immune system activity.

First and foremost, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help support your immune system, which significantly impacts your monocyte production. Support your immune system by eating a balanced and nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress, and quitting smoking.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!