Advertisement

There are many types of leukemia, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This kind of leukemia primarily affects older adults, and usually progresses very slowly. It affects the white blood cells, which are called lymphocytes. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia can be treated in a variety of ways, including chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. Cancer can be a frightening diagnosis for anyone, and treatment is always more efficient if started as soon as possible. Luckily, many symptoms can help to indicate that you may have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these signs:

Advertisement

Anemia

Anemia is a condition that is caused by a shortage of red blood cells. When you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, your body produces more white blood cells, creating a shortage of red blood cells. Consequently, you may notice that you have the symptoms of anemia. These include fatigue and weakness, as well as shortness of breath and pale skin. Other symptoms of anemia include heart palpitations and lightheadedness. Anemia can be caused by a variety of conditions, including cancers like chronic lymphocytic leukemia. If you notice any of the signs of anemia in conjunction with other symptoms, you should talk to your doctor to find out if they may be related.

chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Fatigue

Cancers like chronic lymphocytic leukemia can be exhausting, even in the early stages. You may feel fatigued by your normal daily activities and may have a difficult time concentrating. In part, this is because your body is not producing enough red blood cells. This has an adverse impact on your heart and brain and can cause your body to feel tired all of the time. Other symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia can affect your ability to sleep well during the night, which can also deplete your energy. It is important to be familiar with your sleep patterns so that chronic fatigue can be detected.

fatigue chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Enlarged Lymph Nodes

Enlarged lymph nodes are one of the most common signs of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. These can indicate that your immune system is working to fight an infection, but can also be a sign of cancer. Lymph nodes are small glands throughout the body, which help to filter lymph fluid as it flows through your lymph system. Typically, your white blood cells destroy the bacteria and other waste that collect in these filters, but when you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, your white blood cells are not functioning properly. This means the waste can collect and cause swelling, although it is usually painless.

lymph nodes chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Increased Infections

If you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you may notice that you are suddenly more susceptible to infections. It may take a long time to recover, and they may not respond as well to treatments like antibiotics. This is because chronic lymphocytic leukemia disrupts the function of your white blood cells, and prohibits them from fighting back against bacteria. This may seem counterintuitive because chronic lymphocytic leukemia increases your white blood cell count, but it does not increase the amount of useful white blood cells. Leukemia cells cannot fight infections in the same way that normal white blood cells normally would.

leukemia
Advertisement

Abdominal Pain

A common symptom of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is abdominal pain. This may be accompanied by a sensation of stretching or fullness. This is because your spleen or liver may be enlarged if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The spleen is part of the lymphatic system and plays a role in filtering out old blood cells. If you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, it may not be able to do this properly. The swelling can also cause the rest of the organs and tissue in the abdomen to shift positions, leading to additional pain. Any unexplained abdominal pain should be concerning, but it may also be a warning sign of a more serious condition like cancer.

lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Weight Loss

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia can lead to weight loss in some patients. When your blood cell counts are off, it may impact your appetite and cause you to feel nauseous or even just not hungry. In the meantime, your body is also working very hard to do things that used to require less energy, like fighting infections. You may also have trouble with sleeping and exercising, which can throw off your body's natural routine. As a result, many people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia experience extreme weight loss that cannot be explained exclusively by diet or exercise changes.

weight loss chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Elevated Lymphocyte Count

The most common way that chronic lymphocytic leukemia is detected is not by reporting individual symptoms, but by stumbling across an unexplained increase in white blood cells. Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may not notice that they have the disease, especially in the early stages before symptoms actually begin to present. Instead, they will often go to the doctor for a routine exam or regarding another condition. Most sets of blood tests include standard cell counts, so your doctor will likely check your lymphocyte count even if it isn't a concern. Finding an unusually high amount of white blood cells will often result in additional testing for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

pains chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Shortness of Breath

Underlying conditions cause many symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. For example, anemia can cause shortness of breath, so if you are having difficulty breathing in combination with other symptoms, it may be a sign that something more serious is wrong. In addition to anemia, shortness of breath can be a result of overall fatigue from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, as well as from sudden, rapid weight loss. The body is a very complex system that relies on proper blood flow to maintain all of its functions, so when there is an issue with the blood, it impacts many of your most important organs.

short of breath chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Night Sweats and Fever

People who have chronic lymphocytic leukemia may experience night sweats. While the average person may get overheated under a lot of blankets during sleep, chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients experience much more severe symptoms. They may wake up drenched in sweat, unable to cool off, regardless of the temperature. This is because the body naturally becomes warmer when it is fighting against a disease like cancer, in an attempt to kill off the bad cells. This can impact the quality of sleep, and can also present as a fever during the day.

what is chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Advertisement

Bruising and Nosebleeds

One side effect of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a decrease in blood platelets. These are the cells responsible for clotting. Because your body is producing white blood cells at a higher rate, it cannot produce as many platelets. This can make it difficult for the platelets to clot as quickly, which results in more frequent and more severe bleeding. Nosebleeds are common, and bruises may be larger and last longer than usual. Small cuts may also bleed more heavily than expected, and your gums may bleed easily during routine brushing and flossing. If you experience difficulty with blood clotting, you should see your physician for testing.

chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.