Leukemia is basically cancer of blood or bone marrow. Its starts in the bone marrow, a soft tissue which is found inside the bones. In this condition, there is an increase in the number of abnormal white blood cells which are known as 'leukemia cells'. In time, these cells destroy all the healthy blood cells, leading to infections, diseases, and blood disorders.
Doctors and medical practitioners still haven't been able to find the causes of leukemia. However, there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of getting this cancer. They are exposure to radiation and some type of harmful chemicals like, benzene and hair dyes, and genetic disorders. Some researchers also claim that HIV and HTLV (human T-lymphotropic virus) can also lead to this blood cancer.
The early symptoms are caused by the sudden rise of abnormal white blood cells that crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This makes it difficult for the normal blood cells to function properly. Therefore, the affected people start suffering from frequent infections, constant fever, and night sweats. The disappearing of healthy white blood cells causes anemia, which leads to hair fall, fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath. Leukemia also causes blood platelet cells to decrease which are very essential for blood clotting. This results in impaired clotting, excessive bleeding, easy bruising, and many tiny red spots on skin.
Acute Leukemia Symptoms
In acute leukemia, there is rapid increase in the leukemia cells, which cannot perform the work of normal white blood cells. This crowd of unhealthy cancerous cells makes the bone marrow weak and unable to produce healthy cells. Immediate medical care is required as the rise and spread of cancerous cells in bloodstream may also affect other organs of the body. No early immediate symptoms are seen in this cancer.
As the cancerous cells multiply and fill up the bone marrow, the following warning signs can be seen:
- Infection is the most common symptom observed. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, and parasites.
- Fatigue and paleness of skin caused by anemia, which is a decrease in the number of red blood cells.
- Drastic weight loss is seen in about 15% of cases.
- As the blood platelets decrease in number, the individual becomes more prone to internal bleeding and bruising.
- An increase in waist size is noticed because of abdominal swelling as the leukemic cells fill up, causing the liver and spleen to stretch out.
- Problems of the nervous system like vision impairment, mental deterioration, and disruption in normal activities of brain are seen in advanced stages of the cancer.
Chronic Leukemia Symptoms
Chronic leukemia is characterized by the sudden rise of mature yet dangerous white blood cells, which can still do some of the work of normal white blood cells during the initial stage. These cancerous cells take months or years to build up. Acute condition must be treated immediately, but in chronic leukemia the patient is kept under observation for sometime before actually starting the treatment.
Following are the symptoms of this cancer:
- In early stages, the cells function normally, and the symptoms may not appear for a long time. The patient will feel very tired for no apparent reason and also experience frequent night sweats.
- Drastic weight loss is observed for no specific reason.
- An individual will suffer from high fever, which will stay for a long time. Unusual pain and a feeling of fullness is experienced below the ribs on the left side.
- Infection is also one of the common symptoms observed.
- The patient will observe painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach, and groin.
The symptoms leukemia of can often go undetected for years and can be identified only after a routine blood test. According to medical facts, one in five leukemia patients does not show symptoms at all. In many cases, the signs and symptoms may vary depending on the type of infection.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.