Night sweats may be an early sign of leukemia. This may be due to the body raising its temperature to fight off infection. Sweating may be excessive even in a cool room.

Leukemia is an umbrella term that refers to cancer of the blood cells. The type of leukemia a person develops depends on the type of blood cell that becomes cancerous. These are typically lymphocytes or myeloid cells. The type also depends on whether the condition grows quickly (acute) or slowly over long periods of time (chronic).

Leukemia occurs most often in adults over the age of 55, but is also the most common cancer in children younger than 15. Evidence suggests that 61,090 people will receive a diagnosis of leukemia in 2021.

Excessive sweating at night can occur for a number of reasons. In some cases, it may be an early sign of certain types of cancer, including different types of leukemia.

In this article, we will discuss the association between night sweats and leukemia, other possible early signs, and suggest when a person should see a doctor.

A person experiencing night sweats due to leukemia.Share on Pinterest
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Most of the signs and symptoms experienced by people with leukemia are due to a shortage of healthy blood cells caused by the overcrowding of leukemic cells in the bone marrow. The body is unable to create enough healthy blood cells or platelets, instead producing immature or abnormal blood cells.

In particular, this affects the production of white blood cells (WBCs), which fight off infections. This may make a person with leukemia prone to infections. A person may experience fevers and night sweats as the body raises its temperature to fight off infections. Leukemic cells also can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, where the body attempts to kill the cancer cells.

People cool their bodies through sweating. While most people sweat more during the day, night sweats can also occur, especially during hot weather, when a person is warm due to too many bed layers, or as a symptom of menopause.

A person otten can recognize if their night sweats are associated with leukemia or other blood cancers based on the temperature and quantity of sweat.

Night sweats may be related to leukemia when they are excessive, causing a person to wake up drenched in sweat, even when in a comfortably cool room. In some cases, the sweating may be so excessive that a person has soaked their bed sheets or clothing to such an extent that they can no longer sleep on them.

Moreover, other symptoms typically accompany leukemia-related night sweats, which may include:

In children, symptoms may also include:

Signs and symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the person’s age, type of leukemia, and stage of the disease. They may also be similar to symptoms of other conditions. Typically, they relate to the effect of cancer on the production of healthy blood cells and platelets. Symptoms may include:

Night sweats are a non-specific symptom and may be associated with several conditions. Night sweats alone are not usually due to a serious underlying disorder.

However, many people may not realize the seriousness of some symptoms that could indicate leukemia and therefore delay seeing a doctor.

An individual should see their doctor if they regularly experience drenching night sweats, particularly if it accompanies other symptoms. If a doctor suspects leukemia, they may order blood tests, which can help diagnose and determine the type of leukemia.

A person undergoing treatment for leukemia may also experience night sweats as a side effect. The National Cancer Institute notes that night sweats are common in people receiving cancer treatment and may be due to chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and taking certain medications.

People experiencing night sweats due to leukemia can try the following to get better sleep at night:

  • improving air circulation by turning on a fan and opening windows
  • lowering the air conditioner’s thermostat a few degrees
  • avoiding foods and drinks that may induce sweating, including spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine
  • avoiding exercising close to bedtime
  • wearing loose, breathable clothing
  • removing excessive bedsheet layers
  • trying to maintain a healthy weight
  • practicing breathing exercises and other stress relaxation techniques, which may reduce stress-related night sweating
  • using bedsheets and linens with moisture-wicking fabrics
  • keeping ice water by the bed to help a person cool down when necessary
  • preparing ice compresses or ice packs
  • taking a cool shower at night before going to bed

Additionally, caregivers can provide support by:

  • helping the person take and track their temperature
  • helping them keep track of sweating episodes
  • helping them change wet clothes and bed linens
  • checking the person’s temperature during the day and evening
  • offering extra liquids to replace fluid lost through sweating
  • offering to help the person bathe or shower

Night sweats, or excessive perspiration at night, are a common and uncomfortable phenomenon that many people may experience. They are often not a cause of concern. However, frequent and excessive night sweating, accompanied by other symptoms like fever, fatigue, bleeding, and weight loss, may indicate an underlying medical condition such as leukemia.

Leukemia affects the production of blood cells, including the white blood cells, which are important for fighting off infection. With a lower number of white blood cells, the body may raise its temperature to try and prevent infections. The immune system may also raise the body temperature in response to cancerous cells. Both of these reactions may induce excessive sweating.

People experiencing night sweats and additional symptoms should speak with their doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the outcome for a person with leukemia.