Everything You Need to Know About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia All You Need To Know

What is acute leukemia?

Acute leukemia is the rapid development of immature blood cells known as a blast. There are two kinds of acute leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia(AML).

In this article, we will be discussing one of the acute variants of leukemia: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the rapid production of lymphoblast. Lymphoblast normally proceeds to matured T cells and B cells, which helps fight infection. In the absence of these matured cells, the immune system suffers, and the body is exposed to a lot of infectious processes. ALL develop rapidly within a period of weeks to months. 

Symptoms of ALL results from the massive overcrowding of these lymphoblasts, leaving less room for other cells in the bone marrow and dysfunction of lymphocytes, which are matured lymphoblasts.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia symptoms

Here are signs and symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia:

  • Easy bruising
  • Recurrent infections
  • Bone pain ( Leg or arm pain)
  • Fever
  • Hepatomegaly (enlarged palpable liver)
  • Splenomegaly (enlarged palpable spleen)
  • Night sweats
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Anemia due to overcrowding in the bone marrow (dizziness, tired feeling)
  • Headache
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Breathlessness
  • Edema in lower limbs
  • Pale skin
  • Petechiae
  • Testicular enlargement
  • Frequent infections

How is acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosed?

  • Physical examination to detect enlarged lymph nodes, hepatomegaly, and splenomegaly
  • Full blood count t(to check all blood cells)
  • Blood smear( checks shape and sizes of the cell affected)
  • Bone marrow biopsy will show greater than 20% of all blood cells being leukemic lymphoblast
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Biochemical blood analysis (to check electrolyte and liver function)
  • Cytogenetic testing (for the presence of Philadelphia chromosome)
  • Immunophenotyping (is used to determine leukemic tumor markers and the type of blood cell causing the problem).
  • CT scan: to detect organs affected
  • Ultrasound

Treatment Of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Permanent remission is the goal. Treatment usually commences a few days after diagnosis to reduce the blast cells to 5% in the bone marrow. These treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Steroids
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
  • Biologics (Imatinib, Blinatumomab)
  • Blood transfusions