Leukemia Rashes, Infections, and Bruises

Leukemia is a blood cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood cells of the body leading to abnormal growth of white blood cells. The conditions can be acute or chronic and people suffering from leukemia experience a lot of skin conditions. Skin conditions linked to leukemia are bleeding under the skin, leukemia rashes or bruises, and infections.

Common Types of Rashes Associated with Leukemia

Some common types of rashes associated with leukemia include

  • Petechiae − In this condition, small, red, or purplish spots appear on the skin as a result of bleeding under the skin.

  • Purpura − Purpura is larger, dark purple or red spots that occur due to bleeding under the skin.

  • Bruising − Leukemia can cause easy bruising due to low platelet counts and decreased clotting ability.

  • Ecchymosis − Ecchymosis is a medical term for a bruise that is larger than a petechia.

  • Erythematous rash − This is a red, itchy rash that can occur due to the accumulation of abnormal white blood cells in the skin.

Skin Conditions Caused by leukemia

A condition where neoplastic leukocytes escape from blood or bone marrow into the skin leads to several skin disorders −


The platelets of a patient suffering from leukemia are affected and the number reduces too. Platelets are responsible for the clotting of the blood. Since the platelets are not enough in the body, the blood does not clot and travels into the blood capillaries. This leads to disruption of the blood capillaries and causes bleeding under the skin. This can lead to discoloration of the skin, forming red or purple patches under the skin, or bruising.

Skin Lesions

Under this condition, white blood cells or leucocytes of a leukemic patient in the bone marrow may enter into the skin layers causing lesions. This condition is known as leukemia cutis. One can notice reddish brown or purplish deposition is noticeable under the skin.


Ringworm is caused by a fungus that appears to be red or white circular patches on the skin. Generally, the patches are noticeable on the neck, arms, and chest regions of the body.


This is a very common type of infection patients with leukemia suffer from. This is due to the reason that blood cancer inhibits the growth of white blood cells in the body. These cells are responsible for the immunity of the body and help fight pathogens that cause harmful diseases. Since the white blood cells are fewer in number, a patient is more prone to infections.

Folliculitis is characterized by the inflammation of the hair follicles. This has symptoms such as itchy or painful tiny pimples or infectious sores that are caused by bacteria or fungi.

Rashes Due to Chemotherapy

Chemotherapeutics for leukemic patients have side effects like rashes on the skin that are itchy, painful, and irritated skin.

Acute Febrile Neutrophilic Dermatosis

Also known as sweet syndrome, the rashes under this condition are similar to insect bites. The inflammation is caused due to the leaking of neutrophils into the skin. A person may also experience chills or fever if diagnosed with sweet syndrome rashes.

Morbilliform Drug Eruption

This condition is a result of the adverse effects of drugs. Morbilliform drug eruption is an allergic reaction a person may experience when starting a prescribed course. The medications cause allergic reactions such as rashes.

Skin Conditions Due to Leukemia

Patients diagnosed with leukemia have higher risks of skin problems. Almost every leukemic patient suffers from a skin condition during the different stages and while on treatment.

Leukemia damages the bone marrow and other organs that help in forming blood cells in the body. The blood cells of the body are inhibited to grow or are disrupted by the overgrowth of leukemic cells. White blood cells are the soldiers of the body and play a very crucial role in the immune system of a human being. They fight against foreign cells and help maintain healthy immunity.

Red blood cells of the body are responsible for the production of hemoglobin. This respiratory pigment not only gives the red blood cells the color but is also responsible for the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin works as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Platelets are another component of the blood and are responsible for the clotting of blood.

A patient diagnosed with leukemia has less count of blood cells. This interferes with the functioning of the blood cells and thus cannot perform their roles in the body. This is why leukemic patients have a lower immunity level of response and have difficulty during blood clotting. Even the slightest injury such as a minor cut may cause too much bleeding and it will take more time or treatments to stop the bleeding. Platelets are not able to clot the blood and this may lead to severe conditions such as anemia also. Anemia can occur due to lower levels of hemoglobin in the body.

Leukemia can in turn lead to various diseases, especially of the skin that can be chronic or life-threatening.


To overcome skin problems and reduce the effect of symptoms, treatments are prescribed to a patient suffering from leukemia. General treatments include antibiotics and antifungals for patients having skin infections. Other treatments include corticosteroids, antihistamines, steroids to reduce inflammation, or medications that suppress the immune system.

Many skin conditions caused by leukemia do not require any treatment. The symptoms can be reduced by treating cancer efficiently or sometimes the symptoms for conditions like morbilliform drug eruptions can go away on their own.

Updated on: 20-Mar-2023


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