Leukemia: Symptoms

By Spader, Catherine, RN

What are the symptoms of leukemia?

Symptoms of leukemia can vary among individuals and differ depending on the specific type of leukemia. In some cases, there may not be any symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Symptoms of leukemia are caused by the high numbers of abnormal white blood cells that crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

The abnormal white blood cells of leukemia are not able to fight infection as effectively as the normal white blood cells, resulting in frequent infections. Lower numbers of red blood cells result in anemia and symptoms that include fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and slow healing of wounds.

Leukemia also reduces the number of platelet cells, which are needed for normal clotting. This results in impaired clotting, easy bleeding and bruising, and tiny red spots on the skin.

The abnormal white blood cells formed in leukemia eventually accumulate in the organs of the body, such as the spleen, liver, lymph nodes, testes, and brain, and interfere with normal organ function.

Symptoms of leukemia include:

  • Achiness in the joints and bones

  • Anemia

  • Enlarged liver and glands, such as the spleen and lymph nodes  

  • Fatigue

  • Frequent infections

  • Loss of appetite

  • Night sweats

  • Ongoing low-grade fever

  • Pale skin or pallor

  • Shortness of breath

  • Slow healing of wounds

  • Weight loss


What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells that help fight infection. With leukemia, your bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones, produces abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells grow rapidly, spread out into the bloodstream, and crowd out healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

The abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight in... Read more about leukemiaintroduction


What causes leukemia?

The cause of every type of leukemia is not known, but some cases of leukemia are caused by abnormalities in chromosomes.

What are the risk factors for leukemia?

A number of factors are thought to increase your chances of developing leukemia. Not all people with risk factors will develop the disease.

Risk factors for leukemia include:


How is leukemia treated?

Treatment of leukemia begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to best evaluate your risks of developing leukemia and promptly order diagnostic testing for such symptoms as fatigue, enlarged spleen, shortness of breath, and easy bruising. These m... Read more about leukemiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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