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CLL Support Association
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Always Tired

Good Morning my Fellow Sufferers, I am a 66 year old ,over weight male that was diagnosed about two years ago with CLL. I am always tired. I am retired but do work part time and some days it is all I can do to get up and move around. Not sure if it is my age , my weight problem , or my CLL.

PS. they say weight lose is one of the symptoms , that one I am ready for. Also i am in stage 1

7 Replies

I dropped 70 lbs. from 210 to 140 during a symptomatic 8 months prior to

ending up in the ER for a malignant pleural effusion with salmonella

infection which left all attending physicians perplexed. I went to immediate treatment

and have since put on 15 lbs. and currently 155. I experience the same symptoms

as you on an almost daily basis. I am 60 years old and was dx in July 2016

at stage 3-4. I still work full time but each day I have to really push myself

to get moving and then deal with very bad fatigue around 3:00 pm.

I wish you all the best and know that this mode of communication is quite

impersonal but you are not alone.



Well, it could be your CLL but there could lots of other reasons for you to be tired. If you haven't had your thyroid and Vit D levels checked then that's worth doing. The other big thing is to try an on line tool to check for the likely hood of sleep apnoea. If you score high then it would be definitely worth having a sleep test.

Lots of people lose a lot of weight when they get their apnoea treated!

Here's an example: britishsnoring.co.uk/sleep_...

and another: sleepassociation.org/sleep-...

best wishes


Don't forget to check for anemia. That can be a consequence of CLL, and certainly was for me. I was anemic for 2+ years before starting treatment. Not so likely in your case since you are just stage 1. But everyone is different. Good luck!



B vitamins are another thing to check for, especially B12.


Welcome to the club. I lost about 45 pounds and it sure did help a lot. I'm sure age plays a factor.


I agree that the answer is likely all of the above (age , my weight problem , or my CLL) but

The regular readers here and on other CLL sites know that any mention of fatigue gets a post from me about testing for re-activation of common childhood diseases, so here it is again. Don't assume you have a single disease (CLL) causing your fatigue, you could have a combination with a virus, bacteria or fungus contributing to the fatigue.

We have CLL a cancer of the immune system, it allows many diseases to affect us that don't bother most people, but our hard working, intelligent doctors often forget those potential complications.

See Dr. Terry Hamblin’s blog on immunodeficiency


and his comments on fatigue: mutated-unmuated.blogspot.c...


All 3 times my CLL has progressed I’ve gotten severe fatigue and weakness in my thigh muscles, possibly due to a reactivation of a childhood disease that added to my symptoms. In 2010 before treatment we tested for Iron and D3 and found I was extremely low in both, so supplements helped relieve some of the symptoms. Others in our discussion groups have found Vitamin B 12 to help. Don't just add some random amount of these supplements, get your PCP or Hem/Onc to test you for Iron & Ferritin, Vitamin D3 ( Cholecalciferol, 25-hydroxyvitamin D ), Vitamin B 12 since the correct amount to supplement may be drastically different than non CLL people.

I also had Whooping Cough (Pertussis) and an antibiotic quickly cured the bacteria infection but the cough lasted a long time. When I was treated in 2010 with Rituxan monotherapy the fatigue problems decreased dramatically.

In 2012 I had leg cramps and fatigue that primarily occurred when I tried to drive a car, I could walk OK but not drive. A reactivation of HHV-6 (an infant disease called Roseola) was diagnosed along with progressing CLL. Treatment with Valganciclovir (Valcyte not Valtrex) in October relieved the cramps, reduced the fatigue and lowered my ALC, starting Idelalisib in December fixed my fatigue entirely.

I was on Idelalisib from Dec 2012 to May 2015 and then switched to Ibrutinib until Feb 2016 and had full strength in my legs. I was able to ski like a 40 year old (at 68 years) but after being off the drugs for 8 weeks my ALC was only 43 but the muscle weakness in my thighs returned. We have tested for all the above causes but cannot find a smoking gun beyond a drug resistant HHV-6 at log 4 x normal. I've been on Acyclovir daily since 2012, but that has no effect on the HHV-6.

I started Venetoclax in June and within 3 weeks the cramps and fatigue were gone. So for me treating the CLL has solved the fatigue problem 3 times.

Since I recently had a full round of Prednisone and now Venetoclax, Dr Furman currently has me taking a prophylactic medicine Atovaquone to prevent my contracting Pneumocystis. Here is what Wikipedia says it is: Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is a form of pneumonia, caused by the yeast-like fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii. Pneumocystis pneumonia is not commonly found in the lungs of healthy people, but, being a source of opportunistic infection, it can cause a lung infection in people with a weak immune system. Pneumocystis pneumonia is especially seen in people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, and the use of medications that suppress the immune system

So is it CLL and an opportunistic infection? You may need to see an infectious disease doctor, perhaps one that treats other immune compromised conditions like HIV, MS, etc. to get an effective work up for these potential other infections.

Suggest you get tested for all the HHV viruses like CMV, EBV, etc. i.e.: the entire list of HHV 1 to 8. HHV-4 is EBV also known as mononucleosis, notorious for fatigue. Note that the more common antivirals (Acyclovir and Valacyclovir) are not believed effective against all 8 HHVs, so you must be tested and treated differently if one is found active.

Most Docs ignore these since many adults have these as dormant, latent viruses controlled by the immune system- we immune-compromised patients see them reactivated. We know about Shingles from Chicken Pox (HHV-3) but the others are difficult to distinguish from CLL symptoms. So don't assume you have a single disease (CLL) causing your fatigue, you could have a combination with a virus, bacteria or fungus contributing to the fatigue.

And as others have suggested get your Immunoglobulins tested and if needed, get IVIG infusions; many CLLers have had their frequent bacterial infections stopped by that expensive but effective step.

Since you have a weakened immune system, you should be aware that fungal infections can happen. Learning about fungal infections can help you and your doctor recognize them early. This may help prevent serious complications. Although much progress has been made in the management of opportunistic fungal infections, their diagnosis and treatment remain a challenge.


From Patient Power Video: patientpower.info/video/im-...

Joseph writes in this question about fatigue. He says, “I sometimes have days where I’m extremely tired. Mornings are okay, so I’m able to shower and take care of myself and my home. But by noon, I’m exhausted. I feel I have no quality of life. Just walking across the room, I feel unsteady. Is this fatigue all about my CLL?“

Dr. Thompson:

This is a really good question. Fatigue is, by far, the most common symptom that patients with CLL have, and the reason for this is that the CLL cells themselves are producing these chemicals called cytokines, and also, they induce the immune system to produce these chemicals called cytokines that are the same chemicals that you make when you’ve got an infection, like the flu. The symptoms that you have when you have the flu, the exhaustion, the fatigue, not being able to get out of bed, this is a common complaints that patients with CLL have. This can happen even when the CLL is, what we call, early stage and doesn’t need to have specific treatment for the CLL.

It can be a big frustration for patients, and it can result in a significantly impaired quality of life. Now, that having been said, fatigue is a somewhat vague symptom, and it have many potential causes, so I would strongly encourage any patient for whom they have significant amount of fatigue, like you, where it’s effecting your quality of life to a significant degree that you should go and see your doctor, be thoroughly evaluated to determine whether there are any other causes for the fatigue.

We see many patients who may have undiagnosed sleep apnea or an undiagnosed endocrine disorder, or any number of other things that can cause fatigue, and treatment of those will make it go away. In many cases, those things are not identified, and it is determined, ultimately, that it was the CLL that’s responsible. Now, in that situation, you have two options. You can take symptomatic treatments.

Some of our patients take stimulant medications to help them with the fatigue, like Ritalin. We also have a clinical study at MD Anderson with a drug called ruxolitinib or Jakafi that is approved in other types of cancers. This drug actually blocks the production of these cytokines quite effectively in many patients, and we’ve noticed at least half of our patients have a fairly significant improvement in their fatigue levels on this treatment. The other option is to receive treatment that’s designed to kill the CLL itself, and which of those is most appropriate depends on your individual circumstances. I would strongly encourage patients with significant fatigue to talk to their doctor about it, make sure it’s not something else, and then discuss what options might be available to help them with that fatigue, because it’s awful going through life feeling exhausted all the time.



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