Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Dementia

Selina M. Luger, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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Question
Could there possibly be any causal relationship between Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) (or its associated high white cell count) and dementia? My mother was diagnosed with both at about the same time. I know this is most likely a coincidence, but has anybody studied this question?


Answer
Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Older patients can develop dementia for many reasons; however Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is not known to cause dementia alone. If this patient has developed anemia secondary to CLL or perhaps metabolic changes or infectious complications secondary to the disease this could be contributing to a dementia. Also, in some cases, CLL can be found in the spinal fluid and can lead to a dementia. So, it is possible that they are somehow related. On the other hand, it is more likely that they are not at all related to each other and that your mother has developed dementia and has been found to have CLL.