Acute leukemia: what is it?

Acute leukemia is a malignant disease of the hemopoietic system in which bone marrow starts producing immature blood cells (blasts) that leads to the development of a number of pathological symptoms and life-threatening patient conditions. Most susceptible to this disease children 2 – 5 years, although one can fall ill at any age.

Acute leukemia: what is it?

The main body, which is hematopoiesis (hemopoiesis) is the red marrow. It contains precursors (stem cells) of all formed elements of blood. The processes of destruction and formation of new blood cells in the body it never stops, because children and the elderly suffer from infectious diseases, get injured, lose blood due to bleeding. All these processes are accompanied by significant «waste» of formed elements: infections – white blood cells, bleeding – red blood cells, and platelets, etc.

If at any stage of human life, even one single cell-the predecessor of hematopoiesis in the bone marrow changes its structure (mutates), the process of formation of normal blood cells is disrupted. Instead of Mature erythrocytes, platelets or lymphocytes bone marrow starts producing immature cells – blasts. They are unable to perform the functions that a Mature corpuscles, so all the processes that occur in the body involving blood cells (immune reactions, blood clots and stop bleeding, deliver oxygen to tissues, etc.) will be defective. This is acute leukemia.


There are two main types of acute leukemia:

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  • Lymphoblastic, it is characterized by the proliferation of immature lymphoid cells (lymphoblasts) – the future of lymphocytes.
  • Myeloid, in which it noted a malignant growth of cells of myeloid Rostock (myeloblasts). These cells are the precursors of granulocytes and monocytes.
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There are also other classifications of leukemia, taking into account the morphological and cytological features produced by bone marrow blasts. This level of detail is necessary for doctors-hematologists for treatment planning and predictions.

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Acute leukemia is by far the polietiologic disease the exact causes of which to this day are unidentified. The scientists were able only to identify the factors that are likely to lead to the mutation of stem cells in the bone marrow. Such factors include:

  • Heredity. Doctors suggest that some genes are able to determine the occurrence of leukemia, which explains the incidence of disease at the same time, two identical twins. In addition, there are families in which several members (the same or different generations) suffered from leukemia.
  • The influence of chemical substances. Most dangerous in this respect benzene. Provoke occurrence of leukemia can also chemotherapy conducted in respect other malignant diseases.
  • Radiation.
  • Infectious diseases, especially those of viral nature. Mutation of blood stem cells when they can be caused by abnormal immune response.

In addition, there are diseases of the blood, which physicians tend to be regarded as the condition preceding the development of leukemia. Is aplastic anemia, myelodysplasia, etc.

What is acute leukemia?

Sick with acute leukemia can people of any age, the peak incidence observed in the age 2 – 5 years (lymphoblastic leukemia), and after 60 years (for myeloid). Therefore, the symptoms described below, should alert both children and adults. The first symptoms of acute leukemia include the following:

  • Wanton hyperthermia.
  • Pain, aching joints, and bones.
  • The sharp deterioration of appetite.
  • Swollen lymph nodes, which is not accompanied by painful sensations.
  • Increased bleeding of mucous membranes.
  • The bruises that arise as if by themselves.
  • Pallor of the skin.
  • Pronounced weakness.
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With the progression of the disease join, and other manifestations of the illness, which unite in several syndromes: anemia, proliferative, hemorrhagic, intoxication, osteo-articular, immunodeficiency, etc.

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Diagnostics and the main treatment methods

While the emergence and long persistence of symptoms pointing to acute leukemia, it is imperative to consult a doctor, as only early detection of cancer gives the chance for a full recovery.

For starters, you can consult with the primary care physician who will examine and give direction on the General analysis of blood with the formula. The result of this study will be more reasonable to suspect acute leukemia, or to exclude it. Subsequent diagnosis of acute leukemia involves the puncture of the bony marrow and cytochemical analysis. The main methods of treatment of acute leukemia include multi-component chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation from native or non-native donor. Which method is better applied, hematologists decide in each case individually.

Bone marrow transplantation is, of course, a very effective form of treatment to repopulate the bone marrow of the patient’s normal stem cells. But there is one important condition for such a treatment, the patient is in persistent remission (when his blood and bone marrow no malignant cells), to achieve that in stages is chemotherapy. In General, acute leukemias respond well enough to treatment, especially in young patients. Patients who are elderly the forecasts worse.