Multiple Myeloma Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma

Bone problems

Myeloma cells make a substance that dissolves bones. This can cause:

  • Weak bones
  • Pain in the bones (Any bone can be painful, but pain in the backbone, hip bones, and skull is most common)
  • Broken bones – sometimes bones break with just minor stress or injury

High blood calcium

When bone dissolves it can lead to high levels of calcium in the blood. This can cause:

  • Kidney problems, which at first just show as abnormal blood tests
  • Feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
  • Urinating (peeing) a lot
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Feeling sleepy or confused

If the problem isn’t treated, the person may even go into a coma.

Low blood counts

Myeloma cells can crowd out the normal blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. This can lead to low blood counts.

  • If the red blood cells count is low (anemia), you can feel weak, dizzy, and short of breath, and have pale skin
  • If the white blood cells is low, you are less able to fight infections
  • If the platelet count is low, you can have heavy bleeding from minor scrapes or cuts, or easy bruising

Nervous system problems

If bones in the spine may get weak they can collapse and press on nerves in the spinal; cord. This can cause back pain, as well as numbness and/or muscle weakness in the legs. This is called spinal cord compression and is serious. You must contact your doctor right away or go to the emergency room if this happens.

Sometimes, the abnormal proteins made by myeloma cells can damage nerves, causing weakness and numbness.

In some patients, a lot of this protein can make the blood “thicken.” This can slow blood flow to the brain and cause confusion, dizziness, and stroke-like symptoms. People with these symptoms should contact their doctor right away. This needs to be treated by removing some of the protein from the blood using a treatment called plasmapheresis.

Kidney problems

Too much myeloma protein or calcium in the blood can damage the kidneys. This makes it harder for the body to get rid of excess salt, fluid, and body waste products. People with this problem can feel weak and have shortness of breath, itching, and leg swelling. Sometimes multiple myeloma damages the kidneys so much that they stop working and the patient needs treatment (dialysis) to remove water and waste products from the blood.

Infections

Myeloma patients are much more likely to get infections. The most common and serious is pneumonia.


Last Medical Review: 05/22/2014
Last Revised: 06/19/2014