White blood cells have the job of fighting off bacterial and viral infections. However, leukemia infects these cells which may or may not be fully developed. This results in the inefficiency of white blood cells, leaving them unable to protect the immune system against foreign invaders. White blood cells struggle to function under these conditions and those suffering from leukemia often suffer from recurring or long-term infections which can be unresponsive to antibiotic treatment. Be on the lookout for chronic symptoms of infection, such as flu-like symptoms, nausea, urinary tract discomfort, and sudden respiratory problems.
Pain in the Bones & Joints
As leukemia primarily attacks the bone marrow, leukemia cells grow at an accelerated rate which leads to the overflow and congestion of blood cells in the bones and joints. This causes pain, restricted mobility and may also cause sudden changes in an individual’s gait, particularly in children. Pain resulting from this overcrowding of cells within the bones is most commonly felt in the legs and arms but can occur in the back, spine, and hip areas as well.
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The thymus, which acts as the breathing tube for the lungs and sits directly below the neck, can also become impacted by leukemic cell build up. This can lead to difficult or labored breathing, coughing, chest pain, wheezing, and a shortness of breath as the area swells. Leukemia cells may also overcrowd blood vessels within the lungs which can lead to swelling and may inhibit the necessary intake of oxygen. Such respiratory distress can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, shallow breathing and feelings of panic or anxiety.