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Lymphocyte Count

Mar 28, 1997

I recently had a CBC blood test. It reflected a lympho count of 20. My doctor says this is a normal count. Three weeks prior to this test the count was 24. Two years ago the count was 25. My doctor says it is normal for your lympho count to fluctuate. I have heard that your lympho count drops in an HIV infected person. Am I just paranoid or is this something to be concerned about? I would appreciate any input you have on this subject.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

HIV affects the number of a specific type of white blood cell, called a CD4 cell (also called a T4 cell or a T helper cell). In persons infected with HIV, and especially in persons with AIDS, the number of CD4 cells drops over time, leading to a damaged immune system.

The tests you are probably talking about here are Total Lymphocyte counts. The normal range is 20-40% of total white blood cells. This is a very different test from a CD4 cell count. A CBC (Complete Blood Count) cannot be used to diagnose HIV infection, and a CBC does not measure CD4 cells. To measure CD4 cells, a special test has to be done which specifically measures these cells. A CD4 cell count is only done in persons already known to have HIV, or other diseases of the immune system.

Normally, when a person is fighting off an infection, the number of white blood cells goes up. After fighting off an infection, the number goes back down. This is why this number can fluctuate from time to time.

To determine if a person has HIV, they must be specifically tested for HIV. CBC's cannot be used to diagnose HIV infection.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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Blood Test - Sedimentation Rate

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