Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Signs and Symptoms
Many patients have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis, except for an elevated white blood cell count. Some patients notice fatigue, enlargement of lymph nodes or fullness in the abdomen due to an enlarged spleen.
When CLL becomes more advanced and begins to replace normal bone marrow, low blood counts can cause:
- Anemia, due to low levels of red blood cells
- Infections, due to low levels of white blood cells called neutrophils
- Bleeding, due to low levels of platelets
CLL also increases a person's risk of infection because of low production of antibodies (gamma globulins) that help fight bacteria.
In 5 percent to 10 percent of cases, CLL causes the destruction of the patient's own red blood cells and/or platelets through an "autoimmune" process. Destruction of platelets is called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), and destruction of red blood cells is called autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AHA).
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.