Leukemia is actually a group of different cancers affecting the blood cells. The cancer develops in the bone marrow where blood cells are made. In leukemia the body starts to make a large number of abnormal white blood cells that crowd out other healthy blood cells. As a result, leukemia may eventually affect all red blood cells, white blood cells as well as platelets.
The condition may be acute or chronic and oftentimes individuals suffering from chronic leukemia may not even notice symptoms until the cancer is diagnosed with a blood test. However, symptoms of all forms of leukemia are associated with abnormal blood cell proliferation and gradual replacement of the bone marrow with cancerous cells.
These seven early symptoms of leukemia are caused by a severe deficiency of healthy blood cells and can help identify the underlying condition.
1. Flu like symptoms
Both types of leukemia, whether chronic, or acute will lower the body’s natural immunity. As a result individuals with leukemia may find themselves becoming more susceptible to contagion. This can include experiencing common flu-like symptoms like coughs, colds, night sweats, frequents bouts of fever, sore throat and mouth sores among others. Fever may often last longer than usual and may be of a low grade in acute leukemia patients while others with chronic leukemia may experience high fevers.
Since leukemia affects the individual’s disease fighting potential, a patient will likely develop infections easily. Conditions such as the above mentioned flu-like symptoms or others like bronchial pneumonia are a real possibility. It may also be observed that the frequency of contracting infection also increases.
Lower white blood counts also reduce the body’s ability to respond to infection by impacting the lymphatic system.
One of the primary functions of healthy red blood cells is to carry oxygen to different parts of the body. However, as the count of red blood cells decreases, they are no longer able to transport oxygen throughout the body. As a consequence of this, individuals experience anemia and crushing fatigue. Anemia is a condition identified by a deficiency of red blood cells while fatigue can consist of a number of factors that will often be reflected as a lack of physical energy as well as muscle weakness.
For instance, individuals may feel the need to sit down more frequently, find it more challenging to complete routine tasks and have to give up some of their regular physical activities.
Since fatigue often results in headaches, individuals may also experience severe and long lasting episodes of splitting headaches. Some individuals complain about waking up with a headache that is usually accompanied by night sweats and overall achiness. The cause for this is once again traced to restricted blood flow to the brain triggering the headache.
At the same time when insufficient oxygen is circulating in the blood, individuals may also experience shortness of breath. Some people complain of being unable to catch their breath whereas others notice that regardless of how deeply they breathe, they do not feel relieved. Then there are some who find themselves breathing faster just to get enough air.
Such fatigue may be easily accompanied by a general loss of wellbeing and overall malaise.