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Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia symptoms

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This page is about the possible symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). There is information below about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Many symptoms are vague. You may feel as if you have flu. Symptoms can include

  • General weakness or feeling tired (fatigue)
  • High temperature (fever)
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Blood in your urine or stools
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • A fine rash of dark red spots (called purpura)
  • Breathlessness
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • A feeling of fullness or discomfort in the tummy from a swollen liver or spleen

These symptoms are caused by too many abnormal white blood cells and not enough normal white cells, red cells and platelets. But most people with these symptoms don’t have leukaemia.

Particular symptoms of T cell ALL

A type of leukaemia called T cell ALL can cause swollen lymph glands in the centre of your chest. Or it may make the thymus gland in the neck swell. The swollen glands may press on the windpipe, causing breathlessness and coughing. Or they can press on the veins carrying blood from the head. This causes pressure in the blood vessels and makes the face, neck and arms swell and go red.
 

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General symptoms of ALL

Many symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia are vague. You may feel as if you have flu. Possible symptoms can include

  • General weakness
  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising easily or with no obvious cause
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose
  • A fine rash of dark red spots (called purpura)
  • Blood in your urine or stools
  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Breathlessness
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • A feeling of fullness or discomfort in the abdomen, caused by a swollen liver or spleen

These symptoms are caused by too many abnormal white blood cells and not enough normal white cells, red cells and platelets.

You may find it difficult to shake off infections because you don’t have enough healthy white blood cells to fight bacteria or viruses.

Too many abnormal white blood cells collecting in the bones, joints or lymph glands may cause pain and swelling.

You may get abnormal bruising and bleeding because you do not have enough platelets.

You may feel breathless and tired because you do not have enough red blood cells.

 

Particular symptoms of T cell ALL

A type of leukaemia called T cell ALL can cause swollen lymph glands in the centre of your chest. Or it may make the thymus gland in your upper chest swell. The swollen glands or thymus gland may press on the windpipe, causing breathlessness and coughing. Or they can press on the veins carrying blood from the head. This causes pressure in the blood vessels and makes the face, neck and arms swell and go red. This is called superior vena cava obstruction (SVCO).

If you have these symptoms, you should go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department at your nearest hospital because it can be a medical emergency.

 

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, you must get them checked by your GP. But remember, they can all be caused by other medical conditions. Most people with these symptoms don’t have leukaemia. There is information on who should see a leukaemia specialist in this section.

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Updated: 19 August 2013