When signs of leukemia are noticed but blood sample does not show abnormally high white blood cell count, the condition is termed as ‘aleukemic leukemia’. Read on to know the causes and symptoms of this rare type of leukemia….
Leukemia is a serious disease, a cancer of blood or bone marrow. It is a cancer of white blood cells (WBCs). Abnormal production of leukocytes or white blood cells in the bone marrow leads to leukemia, resulting in several health complications. Leukemia is classified into lymphocytic leukemia or meylogenous leukemia, depending upon which type of cells are affected, lymphocytes or the myeloid cells. Leukemia can be acute or chronic, depending upon its rate of progression. Hairy cell leukemia, T cell prolymphocytic leukemia, large granular lymphocytic leukemia, etc., are some other types of leukemia.
What is Aleukemic Leukemia
The bone marrow of a leukemic patient cannot produce sufficient number of healthy blood cells due to over population of immature blood cells within itself. The immature white blood cells, though high in number, are not capable of protecting the body from diseases and disorders. Reduced count of red blood cells (RBCs) and platelets, along with high count of white blood cells is characteristic of leukemia. In aleukemic leukemia, increased number of white blood cells is not detected in a blood test. It is a rare type of leukemia. This type of leukemia can also be lymphocytic, monocytic, or myelogenous. It can be seen in patients diagnosed with acute/chronic lymphocytic/meylogenous leukemia and also in prolymphocytic leukemia, and myelodysplastic syndrome. Aleukemic leukemia cutis is a rare condition wherein the skin gets seriously affected due to cutaneous infiltration by cancerous lymphocytes. The abnormally growing WBCs may accumulate in the spleen, liver, lymph nodes, testes, brain, etc., and can affect the normal function of these organs.
Aleukemic Leukemia Causes
As the abnormal number of white blood cells is not detected in a blood test, this condition is usually not diagnosed at an early stage. Exact causes of this type of leukemia are not yet known. The stem cells in the bone marrow (the soft material in the center of the bone) play an important role in production of various types of blood cells. The stem cells mature into RBCs (which transport oxygen to body cells), WBCs (which fight infections and diseases) and platelets (which promote clotting of blood). A myeloid/lymphoid stem cell turns into a blast during abnormal production of white blood cells. Normally cells die after a certain period of time but abnormal white blood cells do not die and lead to several health problems. When these abnormal number of white blood cells do not spread in the peripheral blood, the condition is known as aleukemic leukemia. It can be diagnosed in patients having acute myelogenous/blastic leukemia, acute lymphoblastic/lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoproliferative disorder or hairy cell leukemia. Excessive smoking, exposure to harmful radiation (X rays, atomic bomb explosion, benzene), chemotherapy, certain inherited diseases like down syndrome, certain blood disorders, family history of leukemia are considered as risk factors for leukemia.
Aleukemic Leukemia Symptoms
Leukemia can invade the skin even before the leukemic cells are detected in peripheral blood or bone marrow. In case of aleukemic leukemia cutis, lesions on skin are noticed. Skin nodules, red skin lesions, scaly lesions can be noticed. In such cases, the prognosis is not so favorable. But such cases are rare. Leukemia symptoms include excessive fatigue, frequent infections, feeling sick, fever and chills, loss of appetite, undesired weight loss, unexplained bruising, excessive bleeding, swollen lymph nodes, chronic cough, abdominal pain, pain in the bone, skin lesions, etc. The symptoms may vary from person to person, depending upon the severity of the disease, age of the person, his/her overall health, etc.
Due to lowered red blood cell count, a leukemic patient experiences the symptoms of anemia. As the number of blood platelets drops down, difficulty in clotting of blood is experienced. Lack of oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body affects the functions of bodily organs. Early detection of aleukemic leukemia and prompt treatment can improve the life expectancy of the patient.