What are the symptoms and signs of CLL?

CLL often develops very slowly, and more than half of all patients do not have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. It is often found by accident as part of a routine blood test during a health check.

The leukaemia B-cells multiply steadily and accumulate in the bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes. As the bone marrow becomes overcrowded with leukaemia cells, it is unable to make enough healthy blood cells.

At this point CLL patients often develop symptoms as a result of lower than normal numbers of blood cells:

  • Red blood cells (anaemia)
  • White blood cells (neutropenia)
  • Platelets (thrombocytopenia)
  • The most common CLL symptoms include:
  • Fatigue: Tiredness and weakness making patients unable to work or perform usual activities
  • Breathlessness, tiredness and headaches due to a lack of red blood cells (anaemia)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
  • Bruising and bleeding easily due to a lack of platelets
  • Swollen abdomen caused by an enlarged spleen or liver
  • Some abdominal discomfort or inability to eat large meals/feeling full easily due to enlargement of the spleen
  • Infections: More frequent, persistent and/or more severe than normal
  • High temperature
  • Severe sweating at night
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite
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