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What are Monocytes?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Monocytes are a type of leukocyte or white blood cell which play a role in immune system function. Depending on a patient's level of health, monocytes make up between one and three percent of the total white blood cells in the body. They can be counted as part of a blood test, and changes in their levels can indicate changes in a patient's health. As a general rule, a low monocyte count is a good sign, and a high count indicates that a problem is present.

These cells are made in the bone marrow, and they spread through the body in one to three days. They can develop into either dendritic cells or macrophages. Dendritic cells belong to a group of cells known as antigen presenting cells, because they acquire antigens and show them to T cells so that the T cells learn to recognize dangerous antigens. Dendritic cells typically present antigens to T cells before they are fully developed, so that the T cell can respond appropriately after it has been shown an antigen.

Macrophages are cells which eat other cells. Classically, they attack any foreign material, such as a bacteria or virus, consuming it so that it cannot hurt the body and preserving an antigen so that the body will be able to recognize the foreign material in the future. Macrophages can also eat cells in the body which have been infected by a pathogen, to curb the spread of the pathogen and keep the body healthy.

Levels of monocytes in the blood tend to rise when someone has an infection, because more of these cells are needed to fight it. Monocytes can also increase in response to stress and other factors. A high monocyte count may be referred to as monocytosis, and it is typically addressed by determining why the count is so high, and addressing the problem. For example, if monocytes are elevated because of an inflammation caused by a viral infection, the patient would be given medication to kill the virus and bring down the inflammation.

Typically, when a monocyte count is requested, the lab will also run other tests on the blood to generate a complete picture. The normal values can vary widely, making it important for patients to discuss the results of blood tests with doctors, rather than trying to puzzle them out on their own. Because many things can cause a high value, having a high count is not necessarily a cause for major concern.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon345635 — On Aug 21, 2013

I have confirmed typhoid VI whereas widal is non reactive, and Monocytes are borderline high at 10.8. What can I do?

By anon344499 — On Aug 10, 2013

My age is 54. I am having heel pain. My monocytes are 12.9. Is there any problem?

By anon293484 — On Sep 26, 2012

My son is 1 year old and his monocytes and basophils are 0. Is there any problem with this?

By anon271518 — On May 27, 2012

You can get rheumatoid arthritis at any age. You cannot get osteoarthritis at a young age. It is just a natural occurrence of aging.

Elevated monocytes is a symptom of something. It is not the cause of joint pain, illness or anything else. High monocytes mean your body is fighting some infection or inflammation. Low monocytes may mean your body will have difficulty fighting off infection, but either way, the monocytes are not the cause of anything, but rather, the result of something off in the body. --

(A Registered Nurse)

By anon258147 — On Mar 30, 2012

I have been having hot flashes. They did a lot of labs. I haven't received all results back. My monocytes are 9.9 and MO#0.7 I have been running a low grade temp. I had a hysterectomy (i have one ovary left). Just wondering about the monocytes level?

By anon176940 — On May 17, 2011

my son's blood report shows that the Monocytes level is high: 10 instead of a range between 3-6. Is it a cause for concern.

By anon171888 — On May 02, 2011

My husband is receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer.

The last couple of days, he has had a fever. The Blood picture showed that monocytes prohibitive. What does this mean?

By anon160976 — On Mar 17, 2011

I've been sick for the past three months with Hyperparathyroidism and high wbc. My monocytes are 1.10, and on my lab work, it say that the normal range is 0.00-0.80.

By anon136328 — On Dec 22, 2010

The range of my monocytes is 13 but also I'm diagnosed with lyme disease and hyperthyroidism. My doctor said not to worry but I'm very nervous because i haven't felt good the past two months and my muscles and knees kind of hurt. Please help.

I will be seeing a hematologist this week so hopefully he could help me. I'm very concerned about leukemia.

By mohanbabu — On Dec 04, 2010

what happens if monocytes present is nil?

By anon115419 — On Oct 02, 2010

Can monocyte in blood reading be 0.00? Please discuss.

By anon113968 — On Sep 26, 2010

my husband has 0.10 monocytes and his knee is swelling, it is over average, is his knee swelling because of above average monocytes?

By anon112909 — On Sep 22, 2010

I have monocytes that measure 11, joint pain, and can barely walk/ they say that i don't have arthritis.

what could it be? --Tam

By anon107066 — On Aug 28, 2010

The normal level of monocytes should be between 2.0 and 8.0, and i have a 13.7! i had a cancer and now the bone in my leg is getting big, and I'm a 50 year old woman. can anyone help?

By anon105460 — On Aug 20, 2010

i had a CBC test and my monocytes are 0.05 and my WBC is 3.20. Is it safe?

By anon91047 — On Jun 19, 2010

I am 49 year old. I got my blood test report saying Monocytes are 00. Tell me what will i do to get the levels to a normal position.

By anon89169 — On Jun 09, 2010

Does a low monocyte indicate signs of HIV? Mine was 10.6 Jan 2009 but decreased to 4.4 Jan 2010.

By anon87087 — On May 28, 2010

what should i do if i do have a monocyte high? what are the causes of having this? please help. thanks

By anon82836 — On May 07, 2010

my daughter took a blood test and it came on she has 0 monocytes. should i be worried? she is 16. can this cause any problems in the future?

By anon82621 — On May 06, 2010

I got a cbc test on Tuesday. and my monocyte count is 10. I have a low white blood count of 3.9 and low counts of neutrophils and lymphs. What does all of that mean for me? I am also anemic.

By anon82026 — On May 04, 2010

My daughter's monocytes level is 1101. Is this level too extremely high. She is 18.

By anon80686 — On Apr 28, 2010

Marijuana/THC has nothing to do with your monocytes. Educate yourself on monocytes.

By anon80526 — On Apr 27, 2010

My daughter just went to the doctor today and got a cbc done and her monocyte count was high. it is 14 but no one wants to tell me why they are so high. I don't know if i should worry or not.

By anon73195 — On Mar 26, 2010

my husband had a high fever. The blood test done by the doctor discovered that he had dengue fever. his monocytes count was 8. after five days had another blood test done to reconfirm the dengue but the result says negative on dengue.

It has been three weeks now. He still feels very tired and off and on has a cold sweat. Do we need to do another blood test?

By anon67450 — On Feb 24, 2010

i recently had a body check up and blood test. everything was fine but the doctor noticed that my monocytes were a bit over average, and i tend to smoke weed. is this just a natural reaction?

By anon52749 — On Nov 16, 2009

i recently had a cbc test for upcoming minor surgery. level was at 12.9. my doctor asked me to come back a week later and have another cbc run. The white count now at 20.0. Now I am having more tests than I can name. It doesn't look good either.

By anon48675 — On Oct 14, 2009

you can't have too high of a monocyte count. the monocytes are not your problem. your problem is that you have an infection or inflammation in the joint, thus the pain. monocytes are the body's natural reaction to infection or inflammation as the monocytes phagocytes the cells that cause the inflammatory response. having too many white blood cells does not cause pain. go see your doctor and he can examine you and medicate you according to your symptoms.

By anon47089 — On Oct 01, 2009

You can have arthritis at *any* age. My son is four and was diagnosed with it at age three. My mom was 25 when diagnosed.

By anon46936 — On Sep 30, 2009

anon it's not that due to high monocyte count that you are getting pain. it's due to pain in the joints. Your body is producing monocytes. You're young and can't have arthritis at this age. There is a possibility of you having an autoimmune disorder but don't panic. i mean maybe. nepali lok

By anon46388 — On Sep 25, 2009

I am having Monocytes more than normal maximum range i.e., 8.8 (normal 1 - 7). due to this i am getting pain in the hip bone, leg bone. i want to cure this. what do i need to do? Can anybody can help? I am age 29 --madhan

By katin — On Aug 28, 2009

So we want our body to produce monocytes to be able to fight infections; but we don't want too much of it because it indicates someone has an infection? So, wouldn't it also be a problem if someone had a very low count of monocytes? Because this would also make it difficult for someone whom was sick to fight the infection, am I right on this?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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