Types of Leukemia

A Look Into the Different Types of Leukemia

Leukemia blood cells
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There are several types of leukemia, a disease that affects blood-forming cells. 

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults.

Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them.

But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don't function properly.

Treatment for leukemia can be complex — depending on the type of leukemia and other factors. But there are strategies and resources that can help to make your treatment successful.

Symptoms of Leukemia

Leukemia symptoms vary, depending on the type of leukemia. Common leukemia signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Bone pain or tenderness

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

Leukemia symptoms are often vague and not specific. You may overlook early leukemia symptoms because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.

How leukemia forms

In general, leukemia is thought to occur when some blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA — the instructions inside each cell that guide its action. There may be other changes in the cells that have yet to be fully understood could contribute to leukemia.

Certain abnormalities cause the cell to grow and divide more rapidly and to continue living when normal cells would die.

Over time, these abnormal cells can crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, causing the signs and symptoms of leukemia.

Leukemia can be divided into four types. It is first classified as acute or chronic.

Chronic Leukemias

In chronic leukemia, the leukemia cells come from mature, abnormal cells. The cells thrive for too long and accumulate.The cells grow slowly.

Acute Leukemias

Acute leukemia, on the other hand, develop from early cells, called "blasts". Blasts are young cells, that divide frequently. In acute leukemia cells, they don't stop dividing like their normal counterparts do.

The remaining two types refer to the type of cells in which the leukemia started from.

Myelogenous Leukemia

Myelogenous leukemia develops from myeloid cells. The disease can either be chronic or acute, referred as chronic myelogenous leukemia(CML), or acute myelogenous leukemia(ALL).

Lymphocytic Leukemia

Lymphocytic leukemia develops from cells called lymphoblasts or lymphocytes in the blood marrow.

The disease can be acute or chronic, referred as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), or acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

Reference:

Mayo Clinic. Leukemia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leukemia/basics/definition/con-20024914

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