Chronic myelogenous leukemia symptoms do not manifest themselves in the early stages of the disease, which makes its diagnosis quite difficult. This article will tell you about the symptoms that are experienced by people suffering from this condition.
Leukemia is caused when the white blood cells in our body get infected. The type of leukemia that we will be discussing in this article is chronic myelogenous leukemia. This type of leukemia is specific to the count of white blood cells that are a part of the bone marrow of a person. In chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), the number of white blood cells begins to increase at an alarming rate, resulting in damage (possibly permanent) to the bone marrow. In this HealthHearty article, we will discuss what are the underlying causes of this leukemia along with its symptoms.
Before we get to the symptoms exhibited by people affected by CML, it is important that we know more about this condition. CML is caused due to the production of a new chromosome, called the Philadelphia chromosome, within the blood of a person. What happens is, two chromosomes (9 and 22) exchange their places and the resultant new chromosome affects the count of the white blood cells in the bone marrow of the person, by releasing a protein called tyrosine kinase. The number of white blood cells not only increases tremendously, but they also have a stunted growth.
As a result, they do not mature and die out. They remain young and immature, which makes them inefficient in maintaining the immune system, which is their primary function. Plus, due to the increase in the white blood cells, the red blood cells and blood platelets do not get enough space to grow, which further intensifies the damage to the bone marrow. Hence, the count of red blood cells falls and the blood of the person gets infected. Another possible cause is exposure to radiation of any kind, whether as a treatment measure for an illness or a nuclear disaster. However, this forms only approximately 10% of the population that is affected by this type of leukemia. Let us now see the possible symptoms of this condition.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of chronic myelogenous leukemia are not visible in the early stages. The disease itself is made up of three phases: chronic, accelerated and blast crisis.
In the initial stage of CML, the body may or may not exhibit any symptoms of any disorder. Some symptoms that people may experience include night sweats, fever, tiredness, etc. Most people will tend to ignore these as symptoms of anything serious and hence write them off. However, it is possible to diagnose the disease even in this phase, which often happens when people get their blood tested for some other reasons. This phase lasts for varying periods from a few months to even years.
This is the second phase, which a person will reach when CML is not diagnosed in the first phase. In this phase, the white blood cells begin to grow at a very fast pace, which can be very dangerous for the person. Some symptoms that can be seen in the person are fever that does not carry an infection, pain in the bone and joints of the body and also a swollen spleen on testing, which is a common result. The spleen swells up because in this phase and in the next, the bone marrow gets so completely filled with the white blood cells that they overflow out of the bone marrow and into the spleen.
Blast Crisis stage
This phase is brought on by the onslaught of the rapidly growing number of white blood cells that goes undiagnosed in the second phase. In this phase, the bone marrow fails completely because more than 30% of the blood cells within it are immature white blood cells or ‘blast cells’. Unfortunately, this is the phase, which has the most prominent symptoms. These include –
- Excessive bleeding
- Anemia, due to the reduced number of red blood cells
- Fatigue, due to anemia
- Easy bruising
- Abnormal clotting of blood leading to possible strokes
- Petechiae (red dots on body caused due to radiation)
- Priapism or a painful erection
- Increased susceptibility to infections, due to the lowered efficiency of the immune system
The only treatment options for CML, after being diagnosed by a Complete Blood Count (CBC) which will segregate the number of the different blood cells, are either lifelong medication or a bone marrow transplant. Hence, if you think that you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned here, visit a doctor immediately, so that medical help can be obtained at the earliest.