Leukemia: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Leukemia is actually a group of different cancers of the blood cells. Leukemias can be acute or chronic, and people with chronic leukemias may not notice any symptoms before the condition is diagnosed with a blood test. Acute leukemias are more likely to cause symptoms. Symptoms of all forms of leukemia are related to the proliferation of abnormal blood cells and replacement of the bone marrow by the cancerous cells.

Symptoms and signs of leukemia include

Other potential symptoms and signs include

Easy bruising and bleeding tendencies may result in bleeding from the gums, nosebleed, purplish or red spots or patches on the skin, or small red spots under the skin.

Sometimes, there is swelling of the spleen or liver, causing pain or swelling in the abdomen. Frequent infections are another common sign of leukemia. If the brain is affected, there may be nausea and vomiting, confusion, headaches, seizures, or problems with muscle control.

Causes of leukemia

The exact cause of leukemia is not known, but both genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role. Leukemia cells have acquired DNA mutations that allow them to grow abnormally and lose functions of typical white blood cells. Certain factors, such as exposure to radiation, are known to increase the risk of developing leukemia.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other leukemia symptoms and signs

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American Cancer Society. "Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in Adults." <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-acutelymphocyticallinadults/index>.

American Cancer Society. "Acute Myeloid Leukemia (MLL)." <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-acutemyeloidaml/>.

American Cancer Society. "Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)." <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-chronicmyeloidcml/>.