In acute leukaemia, the symptoms appear early and deteriorate rapidly. Patients often consult their doctor because they begin to feel bad. In chronic leukaemia, the symptoms might not be apparent for a large period of time. When the symptoms begin to manifest they are normally mild initially and they worsen slowly. In many cases, the diagnosis for chronic leukaemia can found during a routine checkup, in the absence of any symptoms.
Leukaemia cells are abnormal cells that are incapable of performing their normal functions. Furthermore, the Leukaemia cells operate like any other blood cell by circulating through whole organism. Depending on the number of abnormal cells and the place in which they are situated, patients can develop very distinct symptoms.
The first place that they accumulate is in the bone marrow, impeding the normal production of healthy red blood cells, platelets, and leukocytes. A consequence of the reduction of red blood cells is that the transportation of oxygen around the body is altered. Under these conditions, the patient develops anaemia, paleness, and feels tired and weak. When there are not enough platelets, the patient bleeds very easily and frequently suffers from appearance of hemorrhagic manifestations in the skin (bruising and petechia). The deficiency of leukocytes, and the poor operation of the leukemic cells, leaves the organism without one of its principle defence mechanisms against infection; for this reason leukaemia patients suffer from regular infections.
The abnormal cells also accumulate in other organs such as: the brain, and the spinal column (collectively known as the central nervous system or CNS), producing severe headaches, vomiting, loss of muscle control, state of confusion, and convulsions. In addition, the abnormal cells can manifest in the testicular zone, producing pain and inflammation. Some patients may suffer from a skin or eye infiltration. Leukaemia can also affect the digestive system, the liver, the spleen, the lungs, and other parts of the body.
Further symptoms that patients can experience include:
• Fever, shivering, and other flu-like symptoms.
• Weakness and fatigue.
• Frequent infections.
• Loss of appetite and/or weight.
• Swelling of the lymph glands, the liver or the spleen.
• Bruising, petechia, and hemorrhage mucosas.
• Swollen or bleeding gums.
• Heavy sweating, especially at night.
• Pain in the bones and joints
The majority of the symptoms of leukaemia are similar to other illnesses. If you experience some of these symptoms there is no need for initial alarm because it could be related to a separate disease. However, it is necessary to be alert for the persistence and, above all, the progression of the symptoms.