Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is cancer of white blood cells present. The disease is characterized by abnormal multiplication of specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes in bone marrow and blood. Normally lymphocytes main function is to fight infection but this abnormal lymphocyte cells are not capable of fighting infection.

In fact they build up in large number in the bone marrow and blood, survive for a long time and outnumber the normal white blood cells. They also prevent proper functioning of the normal white blood cells. This leads to frequent infection and various other symptoms such as swelling of lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, loss of weight and appetite, night sweats etc.

Lymphocytic leukemia is differentiated into two types; acute lymphocytic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia develops gradually and remains for a longer time. This disease is mainly observed in elderly people over the age of 60. The exact cause of its occurrence is not known, but elderly individuals, hereditary, exposure to certain chemicals are some important risk factors.

Patient lives with disease for a long time because the disease progresses slowly. During the early phase patient does not require treatment but regular checkups and monitoring are essential. Treatment usually begins when the disease progresses.

It involves chemotherapy, stem cell transplant etc.

Causes And Risk Factors Of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

The exact cause of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is not known. But researchers believe that something goes wrong in the body to cause genetic mutation in the DNA of blood forming cells. This DNA mutation leads to production of abnormal lymphocytic cells, a type of white blood cells that are essential to fight infection.

However, the abnormal lymphocytes are ineffective in fighting infection. In fact they multiply, accumulate, outnumber and push the normal cells out of the bone marrow. They also prevent production of normal blood cell. They accumulate in the blood and marrow as well as organs such as spleen.

Certain factors increase the risk for development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. They include:

  • Age above 60.
  • Someone in family having blood or bone marrow cancer.
  • Exposure to insecticides and herbicides for long period of time. Exposure to certain other harmful chemicals that are used in war.
  • The incidence of chronic lymphocytic leukemia is more in white people than other races.

Symptoms Of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

The symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia are progressive and most of them appear to be similar to symptoms of many other common diseases. The disease is mostly diagnosed when blood test shows lymphocyte abnormality.

Below are given common symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia:

  • Frequent infections.
  • Bruising from mild pressure and scratches.
  • Fever off and on.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Pale skin, lips and tongue due to anemia.
  • Swollen lymph nodes of armpits, neck, groin.
  • Swelling and pain under left side of rib cage due to enlarged spleen.
  • Abnormal sweating at night.
  • Shortness of breath and tiredness due to anemia.

Treatment Options For Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a progressive disease. In the initial phase of disease, doctors generally wait and observe the patient before they begin treatment. Patients are called for regular checkups and told to do follow up blood tests at frequent intervals to know the progression of disease. Generally doctors start treatment when signs and symptoms start developing. Treatment consists of several options such as targeted drug therapy, chemotherapy, bone marrow stem cell transplant etc.

Alternative home remedies are worth trying although they do not cure the illness, but are capable of curtailing the progression of this type of blood cancer. Since there is risk of recurrent infection, patient should stay away from sick people and also eat healthy and nutritious food that will help to improve the immune system. Patient should stop smoking and alcohol consumption.

Green tea is known to be effective in killing the abnormal cells in early stage of the disease.

Wheat grass juice contains chlorophyll and is beneficial for increasing hemoglobin in a natural way. Thus more nutrients in the form of oxygen and other vital vitamins reach the blood cells. The saponins present in wheat grass help to clean the lymphatic system. It also improves the immunity of the body.

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