Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

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Leukemia doesn't always reveal itself with obvious signs and symptoms in the early phases of the disease. Initially, the symptoms are general in nature—resembling those of a flu or a cold—resulting from the accumulation of leukemia cells in the bone marrow, lymph tissue, and spleen and the crowding out of normal red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. These generalized symptoms may include:

  • Fever, chills, or soaking night sweats
  • Persistent fatigue or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

More specific symptoms may develop, depending upon the types of cells affected by the disease. Crowding out red blood cells can lead to shortness of breath, anemia, pale skin color, and fatigue. A shortage of white blood cells increases incidence of infection. Lack of platelets can lead to bruising, bleeding from the nose or gums, and developing tiny red marks on the skin.

If the leukemia cells spread outside the blood, several other symptoms may develop depending upon the other organs involved. These may include:

  • Headaches, weakness, seizures, vomiting, difficulty in maintaining balance, or blurred vision
  • Constant swollen lymph nodes located in the neck, stomach, underarm, or groin
  • Joint or bone pain
  • Abdominal pain due to an enlarged liver or spleen
  • Coughing, shortness of breath, suffocation, or swelling in the arms or hands due to an enlarged thymus. This is a medical emergency.

Last reviewed on 08/30/2007

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