Leukemia if not caught early can be deadly as it affects the white blood cells majorly. What is Leukemia? It is the cancer of the blood. The causes of leukemia are yet to be discovered but genetics and environmental factors tend to play a role in its development. It develops when blood cells acquired mutated DNA segments or undergo mutation in their DNA.
One of the first signs of leukemia is the preponderance of white blood cells in a blood culture. Which is also obtainable when the body is fighting stronger infections. In cases where the WBC keeps increasing, leukemia might be in the offing.
There are several types of leukemia with their characteristic signs and symptoms, for instance, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is very common in adults and it presents leukemia symptoms depending on the lymph nodes affected.
Signs and symptoms of leukemia
Symptoms of leukemia depends on the stage of development and the type (the types are based on how fast it progresses AND the type of white blood cells affected).
Based on how fast they progresses: Acute and chronic leukemia; based on the type of white blood cells affected: Lymphocytic leukemia (the most common type in children) and myelogenous leukemia (with various subtypes).
There is a slight difference between Symptoms of leukemia in adults and children due to several factors one of which is age and immunity. Most commonly seen symptoms of leukemia in children are frequent nosebleed and gums, swelling of the abdomen, spleen and liver, and frequent joint pain. In adults, unexplained profuse sweating especially in the night may be an indication of leukemia (endocarditis may present the same symptom but your doctor will be in the best position to tell).
The following are the signs of leukemia you may be diagnosed if you have leukemia:
1. Production of abnormal WBCs with abnormal structures.
2. Rapid increment in the number of WBCs produced over time which displaces normal white blood cells.
3. Anemia due to formation of abnormal red blood cells.
Symptoms of leukemia
If you are suffering leukemia, you might experience one or more of the following leukemia symptoms:
1. Pale skin with occasionally signs of cyanosis
Low blood oxygen levels may make the skin to look pale due to the de-oxygenation of the blood.
2. Shortness of breath on exertion
Anemia and reduced hemoglobin in the blood may make oxygen transport inefficient. This may lead to forceful exertion to get more oxygen into the body through breathing.
3. Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
This is a symptom of most disorders and infections. When nutrients are not extracted properly from foods, weight loss is the result. If the gastric cavity is affected, loss of appetite may result.
4. Pain in the bone or at the joints
This is due to aggregation of leukemia cells near bone surface.
5. Painless swollen lymph nodes in the arm, neck, groin area and the collarbone
This may also be a sign that you are fighting infections, however, aggregation of WBCs in the lymph nodes makes them to swell. Lymph nodes under the skin may swell but can only be detected by imaging tests.
6. Persistent fatigue with no relieve
Poor metabolism and inefficient oxygen may give rise to frequent fatigue.
7. Loss of muscle control and seizures
Muscle fatigue is a product of incomplete combustion of energy molecules due to inadequate oxygen, and formation of lactic acid in the muscles. Seizures may occur if the brain is suffering from hypoxia.
Confusion, Lightheadedness, migraine and headaches may result from spread of leukemia to the brain.
9. Profuse bleeding
Profuse bleeding (nosebleed and gum bleeding) due to loss of blood platelets.
Frequent opportunistic infections e.g. Tonsillitis