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Acute Eosinophilic Leukemia

Eosinophilic leukemia is a disorder in which too many white blood cells, known as eosinophils, are produced in the blood, bone marrow, and other tissues of the body. Ordinarily, these white blood cells help the body fight diseases and infections. With eosinophilic leukemia, the overabundance of white blood cells can sometimes lead to dangerous results.

Anatomy of  a bone, showing blood cells
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Facts about acute eosinophilic leukemia

In some instances, people can have chronic eosinophilic leukemia for many years without any negative consequences. Other times, though, the disease progresses to a form of cancer known as acute eosinophilic leukemia, which is a rapidly progressing, life-threatening cancer. 

Because of its similarity to other conditions, such as idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome, or HES, the actual incidence of acute eosinophilic leukemia is unknown, but it is rare.

In about 10 percent of those who have it, the high level of white blood cells is detected incidentally.

Symptoms

People with acute eosinophilic leukemia may not show symptoms of the disease. In some cases, the high white blood cell count is discovered after a routine blood test.

Other times, the condition may be accompanied by various symptoms, but it's not always clear whether they are actually related to acute eosinophilic leukemia. These symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Muscle pain

  • Itching

  • Diarrhea

  • Swelling under the skin around the eyes, lips, throat, hands, or feet

Diagnosis

Acute eosinophilic leukemia is characterized by a high white blood cell, or eosinophil, count. But doctors often have trouble distinguishing between acute eosinophilic leukemia and HES.

Treatment

As with many types of leukemia, the typical treatment for acute eosinophilic leukemia is a bone marrow transplant used in combination with the chemotherapy drug interferon-alpha. Together, these two treatments give the body the best chance of ridding itself of cancer.

Prevention

Experts aren't sure how to prevent acute eosinophilic leukemia. The disease is quite rare, and the reasons that it occurs are unknown.

Managing acute eosinophilic leukemia

People with acute eosinophilic leukemia are fighting a serious, potentially life-threatening illness. They may need additional counseling and mental health support to cope with the issues involved in combating the illness. Planning for end-of-life issues, such as palliative care, may be necessary.

Home care

A diagnosis of leukemia can be emotionally stressful and physically and emotionally painful for the person going through it and his or her family members. Some studies have suggested that alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation can reduce the pain, depression, and anxiety related to acute eosinophilic leukemia and its treatments. 

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