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The signs and symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) can differ from person to person, but they often result from the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells called lymphoblasts. These lymphoblasts crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow and bloodstream, causing a variety of complications. Often these symptoms can mimic other illnesses, so it's important to stay aware of how you are feeling and seek medical attention promptly if you are concerned about anything.

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of ALL Include: 

  1. Fever: Patients with ALL often experience fevers. This is due to the leukemia cells taking up space in the bone marrow and preventing the production of normal white blood cells that fight infection, leading to a weakened immune system. A lack of healthy white blood cells makes a person more susceptible to bacterial, viral and fungal infections. When the body detects an infection, it responds with a fever as a defense mechanism. Raising the body's temperature creates an environment that is less favorable for the growth of certain pathogens. Fever in people with ALL should be taken seriously and promptly evaluated by a healthcare provider. Early identification and treatment of the underlying cause are important. 
  2. Fatigue and weakness: Fatigue and weakness can be the result of many different factors. Anemia is common in ALL. It occurs when there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells or a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body's tissues, and when the levels are reduced, it can lead to oxygen deprivation resulting in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Chemotherapy can also contribute to fatigue. These medications affect not only ALL cells but also healthy cells, including those in the gastrointestinal tract which can lead to nausea, vomiting and poor appetite. These side effects can result in reduced nutrient intake and lower energy levels, contributing to fatigue. 
  3. Bleeding and bruising: Patients with ALL may bruise or bleed easily and heal slowly. This is because leukemia cells can crowd out the normal cells in the bone marrow that help with blood clotting. The cells responsible for clotting are called platelets and when they become too low to clot effectively, this is called thrombocytopenia. When platelets are too low, even minor bumps or pressure to the skin can cause blood vessels to break, resulting in excessive bruising. 
  4. Bone and joint pain: Leukemia cells can collect in the joints and bones, causing pain, particularly in the long bones of the arms and legs. This is a common symptom in children with ALL. The increased production of leukemia cells can lead to the expansion of the bone marrow within the bones. This expansion can cause pressure and stretching of the bones' outer covering called the periosteum, which is rich in nerve fibers. The pressure on the periosteum can result in bone pain. Chemotherapy can also be a culprit. Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the bone marrow and bone structure, leading to pain in the bones and joints as a side effect. In rare cases, ALL may spread to the central nervous system (CNS). When leukemia cells infiltrate the CNS, they can cause symptoms such as headaches, which may be associated with pain in the neck or back of the head.
  5. Swollen lymph nodes: In ALL, lymphoblasts multiply uncontrollably in the bone marrow and can sometimes infiltrate nearby lymph nodes. These leukemia cells can accumulate within the lymph nodes, causing them to enlarge or become swollen. This is often a sign of leukemia progression. Swollen lymph nodes are also a common response to infections or inflammation in the body. People with ALL have compromised immune systems due to the overproduction of leukemia cells, making them more susceptible to infections. Swollen lymph nodes can occur as the body's immune system responds to these infections.
  6. Weight loss and loss of appetite: Weight loss and lack of appetite can be attributed to many different causes. ALL itself and it's treatments can lead to a decreased interest in food. Chemotherapy in particular can cause nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal discomfort, making it challenging to consume an adequate amount of calories, vitamins and minerals. The presence of leukemia cells can also alter metabolism, resulting in an increased demand of energy and nutrients. 
  7. Other ALL-related symptoms: Some patients may experience additional symptoms such as night sweats, abdominal discomfort (caused by a swollen spleen or liver), and in rare cases, the spread of the disease to the central nervous system can cause headaches, vomiting, confusion, loss of muscle control, and seizures. It's important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than ALL. However, if these symptoms persist, it's crucial to seek medical attention to determine the cause and begin treatment if necessary.

Seek Care For Your Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Symptoms

Seeking medical attention promptly if you are experiencing symptoms related to your ALL is of utmost importance. ALL is an aggressive cancer. Prompt initiation of treatment is essential to achieve the best possible outcomes. Delaying treatment can allow the leukemia to progress, making it more challenging to achieve remission.

Medical attention can help manage and alleviate your symptoms and side effects and allow doctors to tailor an ALL treatment plan that allows you to live as comfortably as possible. Doctors can adjust treatment as needed and provide supportive care to manage treatment-related side effects and complications. Coping with a cancer diagnosis is emotionally and psychologically challenging, you don't have to deal with side effects alone. In addition to discussing with your medical team, if you are experiencing ALL symptoms and want to know what has worked for other blood cancer patients, visit HealthTree's Side Effect Solutions tool. Here you can search for the symptoms you are experiencing and read about what's worked (and what hasn't worked) for patients just like you. 

HealthTree's Side Effect Solutions Tool

Want to Learn More About Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?

Keep reading HealthTree for ALL's 101 pages!

What is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?

How is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Diagnosed?

How Long Will I Live With Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?

How is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Staged and Classified?

What are Treatments for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia?

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