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Monocytes are a type of white blood cell that surround and destroy germs and dead or damaged cells from the blood. The heat and swelling that you feel when a body part is inflamed, for example after a cut on your finger, is caused by the activities of these cells.

What might a low result mean?

Low levels of monocytes, also known as monocytopenia, can be caused by autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Low levels of monocytes can also be caused by the use of medications which affect the bone marrow such as those used in chemotherapy, and by the use of immunosuppressive steroids such as prednisolone.

What might a high result mean?

Elevated levels of monocytes, also known as monocytosis, can indicate chronic inflammation, one form of which is atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease where the blood vessels become hardened.

Elevated levels of monocytes can also be found in people with parasitic infections, very high stress levels, and in Cushing's disease, a condition in which the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.