Acute myeloid leukemia symptoms may be vague and resemble other common illnesses. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, weight loss, headaches, and more. These can occur due to low counts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells called myeloblasts.

Many AML symptoms occur due to blood cell shortage, as leukemia cells crowd out healthy blood cells and prevent their production.

This article discusses common signs and symptoms of AML. It also looks at treatment options for AML.

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General symptoms of AML can include:

AML cancer cells, or “blasts,” are bigger than normal white blood cells, which makes it harder for them to pass through tiny blood vessels. This also prevents other blood cells from reaching tissues.

Overcrowding the bone marrow also disrupts blood cell formation (hematopoiesis), leading to low blood cell count.

This may cause a person with AML to experience vague, nonspecific symptoms that are common to other less serious conditions, such as the flu.

Learn more about AML.

Overcrowded bone marrow can result in a low white blood cell count, or neutropenia. Reduced neutrophils, a white blood cell that acts as the immune system’s first line of defense, can lead to infections.

Fever may accompany frequent infections.

Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen throughout the body. A low red blood cell count can cause a range of symptoms, such as:

Platelets help make blood clots, which slow or stop bleeding and promote wound healing. A low platelet count, or thrombocytopenia, can lead to:

Blasts are larger than normal white blood cells. If their count gets high, they can clog up blood vessels, making it hard for RBCs to deliver oxygen to tissues. This may cause a rare medical emergency called leukostasis.

This is a life threatening medical emergency that causes a range of symptoms when the heart, lungs, and brain are affected. These include:

There are various possible treatments for AML. The following factors may affect the choice of treatment:

  • AML subtype
  • history of chemotherapy use
  • presence of myelodysplastic syndrome or other blood cancer
  • presence of cancer cells in the central nervous system (CNS)
  • how AML has responded to other treatments
  • presence of systemic infection at diagnosis
  • the person’s age and general health


A person may require chemotherapy. Doctors may use a combination of chemotherapy drugs, such as cytarabine, and an anthracycline drug, such as daunorubicin.

Doctors may give chemotherapy in phases to try to induce complete remission:

  • Induction therapy: This initial treatment aims to clear as many leukemia cells as possible in the blood and bone marrow and to induce remission.
  • Consolidation therapy: This begins after a person recovers from induction. It aims to kill any remaining leukemia cells. This involves giving chemotherapy in cycles followed by a period of rest in between to allow the body to recover.
  • Maintenance or post-consolidation phase: This phase involves providing a person with low doses of chemotherapy or other drugs for months to years.

If leukemia cells are present in the nervous system, doctors administer intrathecal chemotherapy, which involves injecting drugs directly into the spinal fluid.

Learn more about chemotherapy and AML.

Stem cell transplantation

Doctors can use stem cell transplants or bone marrow transplants to give people with AML higher doses of chemotherapy. A person typically undergoes a transplant during the consolidation phase.

Doctors may also recommend this treatment to those with relapsed or resistant AML after they undergo re-induction chemotherapy.

Learn more about bone marrow transplant for AML.

Targeted drugs

Doctors may give targeted drugs along with chemotherapy. These drugs treat certain people with AML or those with specific gene mutations.

Targeted drug therapy may also be suitable if AML does not respond to chemotherapy.

Learn more about treatments for AML.

Here are some frequently asked questions about AML.

What are the first AML symptoms?

Early signs of AML may include vague, nonspecific symptoms, such as:

What is the first stage of acute myeloid leukemia?

As AML does not form solid tumors and is generally widespread throughout the bloodstream and bone marrow, experts do not stage AML as with most other cancers.

Instead, a person’s outlook with AML depends on their medical status, lab test results, and the AML subtype or classification a person has.

How do you feel when you have AML?

AML can cause vague, nonspecific symptoms that also occur in other conditions, such as the flu. A person might have fatigue, loss of appetite, or a fever.

How long can you have acute myeloid leukemia without knowing?

Symptoms of AML typically develop over a number of weeks. As it is an “acute” type of leukemia, symptoms often develop rapidly.

People with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) experience various symptoms as cancer cells crowd the bone marrow, preventing the production of normal blood cells.

Symptoms tend to be nonspecific and can include fatigue, frequent infections, fever, headaches, and shortness of breath.

As AML is an aggressive type of cancer, people with the condition usually need immediate treatment. The type of treatment depends on a person’s overall health status and AML subtype but typically includes chemotherapy.

A person should contact a doctor as soon as they have concerns about AML. The doctor will be able to confirm the cause of their symptoms.