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Acute Leukemia : Symptoms
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine

With an acute onset of leukemia, symptoms appear and quickly worsen. However, the early symptoms of leukemia may be overlooked because they are similar to the flu or other common illnesses. In chronic leukemia, symptoms may not appear for a long time. In general, they are mild at first and gradually worsen. Chronic leukemia is often found during a routine medical check-up before there are any symptoms.

While signs and symptoms for each type of leukemia differ, common symptoms of leukemia include the following:
Fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms
Frequent infections
Slow healing of minor cuts
Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
Persistent weakness, fatigue, and pale complexion
Swollen or tender lymph nodes, liver, or spleen (more common in ALL and CML)
Unexplained and easy bleeding or bruising
Tiny red spots (petechiae) under the skin
Swollen or bleeding gums due to clumping of white blood cells
Sweating, especially at night
Bone or joint pain
Headaches, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, and seizures if the leukemia cells collect in the brain or spinal cord
Swelling of testicles or soreness in the eyes or skin



TCM practitioners will examine the individual, and categorize the symptoms under special syndrome groups known as "disharmony patterns." Certain disharmony patterns are present during the different stages of the disease. Acute leukemia can be classified into following types:

I. Acute Attack Stage: This first phase of the disease is when abnormal white blood cells crowd the bone marrow and blood so that normal blood cells such as red blood cells, normal white blood cells, and platelets cannot be made in their normal amounts. There are four disharmony patterns under this stage.

1. Damp and Heat Type
  Individuals have symptoms like a fever that cannot be relieved after sweating, and do not experience an aversion to cold temperatures. Dizziness, fatigue, a full feeling in the stomach and abdominal areas, and diarrhea are common. The urine appears dark yellow and comes in scanty amounts. In serious conditions, individuals will additionally suffer from severe joint pain.
2. Noxious Heat Type
  Individuals suffer from a high fever, heavy sweating, and a pounding, throbbing pain in the head. Abnormal blood circulation symptoms such as bleeding from the nose, gums, or blood in the stool or urine can be present. The skin may also have a bruised appearance or have petechiae. The blood coagulation problems may cause life threatening symptoms in severe cases such as unconsciousness and bleeding into the brain.
3. Accumulated Mass Type
  Masses or nodules appear beneath the skin of both sides of the neck, axilla (armpits) and inguinal regions (groin area). Individuals may experience severe and persistent bone pain, accompanied with restlessness and fever.
4. Interior Liver-Wind Stir- Up Type
  Symptoms include severe pounding, throbbing pain in the head, impulsive vomiting, and a stiff neck. These can progress to more serious symptoms such as convulsions, spasms, and even paralysis of the face. In the most severe cases individuals experience an irregular and intermittent pulse, which leads to coma and finally death. The most severe cases occur when the leukemic cells enter the brain and impair its functioning.

II Remission Stage: The remission stage is when individuals are recovering from leukemia or are cured from it. This phase begins when the symptoms and signs of leukemia disappear, and the number of white blood cells and other blood cells in the blood or bone marrow return to normal. There are two disharmony patterns grouped under this stage.

1. Deficiency of Qi and Yin Type
  Individuals have symptoms like heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. The complexion appears wan and sallow, and the body's skin itself appears withered and pale. Additional symptoms that may be present include fatigue, poor appetite, chapped lips, dryness of the mouth and throat, restlessness, fever, spontaneous sweating or night sweats.
2. Deficiency of Qi and Blood Type
  Individuals have pale lips, nails and a pale complexion. The skin may appear bruised in certain areas and the mucous membranes inside of the mouth can have petechiae. Dizziness, vertigo, distension and fullness in the abdomen, poor appetite, and heart palpitations that worsen with activity may also be present.