Signs and symptoms of acute myeloid leukaemia

Most symptoms of AML are due to the effects of the leukaemia cells in the bone marrow, which make it unable to produce enough normal blood cells.

Common symptoms include:

  • Looking very pale and feeling very tired, or becoming breathless easily. This is caused by a lack of red blood cells (anaemia).
  • Having various infections one after the other. This is caused by a lack of healthy white blood cells.
  • Unusual bleeding, which is caused by too few platelets. This may include bruising without any obvious cause, heavy periods in women, bleeding gums, and frequent nosebleeds.
  • Blood spots or rashes on the skin (petechiae).
  • Feeling generally unwell and run down, perhaps with a sore throat or mouth.
  • Having a fever and sweats.

Rare symptoms include:

  • aching joints and bones 
  • raised bluish-purple areas under the skin 
  • swollen gums
  • enlarged lymph nodes.

Occasionally, you may have no symptoms and the leukaemia may be discovered during a routine blood test.

Symptoms may appear over a few weeks, and people often feel ill quite quickly. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned here, you should have them checked by your doctor. Remember, these symptoms are also common to many illnesses other than leukaemia.

I just started generally being unwell. Various little niggling problems. I had tonsillitis. I had problems with my ears and was extremely lethargic.


Back to Understanding acute myeloid leukaemia

About the blood

To understand leukaemia, it helps to know a bit about the blood.