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Hairy cell leukemia is a rare type of leukemia, which can develop if the body’s bone marrow produces too many lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells and, as part of the immune system, they are responsible for fighting various infections.
Hairy cell leukemia develops only when B cells start to divide abnormally. These B cells are a type of white blood cell that is responsible for producing antibodies and presenting antigens. Under the microscope, B cells look hairy, thus giving this condition its name. When B cells divide abnormally, the amount of red blood cells and healthy blood cells drops.
Hairy cell leukemia usually develops very slowly and it can take years before it first manifests itself. This type of leukemia is more common in middle-aged and older people, particularly men. Although it is possible to achieve remission, the condition cannot be cured. Nonetheless, people can live for years after hairy cell leukemia was first discovered.
Although the exact cause of hairy cell leukemia is not known, it is believed that this disease develops as a result of certain DNA mutations in the bone marrow, which lead to its abnormal production of B cells.
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