If you or your child’s gums bleed easily from brushing or eating hard foods, you may be concerned that leukemia may be the cause.
While bleeding gums are a common symptom of leukemia, it is usually caused by other conditions, such as gingivitis or gum disease. It can even be caused by using a hard toothbrush, or possibly by brushing too vigorously.
If changing your brushing habits isn’t enough to stop your gum bleeding, it’s reasonable to seek medical attention. Read on to find out when bleeding gums can be a sign of leukemia and what your next steps should be.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, where blood cells are made.
Most leukemias are caused by an overproduction of immature, abnormal white blood cells. These cells overcrowd the bone marrow and blood, reducing the space available for red blood cells and platelets. A low platelet count can cause problems with bleeding and bruising.
When you brush your teeth or eat something hard, you can damage your gums. This is more likely if you have plaque and tartar. Even mild gum disease can irritate your gums. This makes them prone to minor cuts and tears from brushing and flossing.
But people with leukemia can have bleeding gums even if they don’t have gum disease. One reason is that some forms of leukemia can cause the gums to swell. But even without obvious swelling, leukemia can cause the gums to bleed more.
Bleeding gums is usually a sign of gingivitis (gum inflammation). But whatever the cause, bleeding gums can also have these characteristics:
Leukemia can cause bleeding symptoms throughout the body. In some cases, bleeding gums can be a sign of childhood or adult leukemia. Other bleeding symptoms of leukemia include:
Leukemia can be chronic or acute. Chronic leukemia develops slowly over time. Often the early symptoms of chronic leukemia are so mild that they go undetected. Acute leukemia develops rapidly and may be accompanied by sudden, more obvious symptoms.
Bleeding gums can be an early warning sign of both types of leukemia. This telltale symptom may also be accompanied by other symptoms that affect the mouth, such as:
Children are more likely to have acute than chronic leukemia. This means that their symptoms can come on suddenly.
If your child has bleeding gums, keep in mind that there are many reasons why this can happen. They may not brush and floss as often as you thought and just need better oral hygiene habits.
Bleeding gums, of course, should not be ignored. The signs and symptoms of leukemia in children are similar to those in adults. You and your child’s other caregivers should keep an eye out for other symptoms, such as:
lethargy weakness dizziness pale skin nose bleeds red dots on the skin excessive bruising constant infections or infections that do not go away fever weight loss and decreased appetite swelling, bloating or tenderness in the abdominal area around the neck and lymph nodes night sweats irritable mood unusual lumps under the arms or anywhere on the body or face, including the area around the eyes
Bleeding gums is a common early symptom of leukemia. But most cases of bleeding gums have other causes, such as gum disease. Bleeding gums that do not go away after a few weeks as oral hygiene improves should be examined by a doctor or dentist.
Other early warning signs of leukemia that require medical attention include pale skin, nosebleeds, and constant infections. These symptoms can occur in both children and adults.