Signs and Symptoms of Castleman Disease

Castleman disease (CD) can cause a lot of different types of symptoms, and in some people it might not cause any symptoms at all. If symptoms do occur, they are often like those seen with other diseases, such as infections, autoimmune diseases, or even some types of cancer. Because of this, doctors might not suspect CD at first.

Common symptoms of localized CD

In the localized form of CD, symptoms are found in a particular part of the body. Localized CD often starts as an enlarged lymph node. If the node is just under the skin, such as in the neck or underarm area, it might be seen or felt as a lump. But if it’s in the chest or abdomen (belly), it might not be noticed until it grows large enough to cause other symptoms:

  • An enlarged node in the chest might press on the windpipe, which could cause trouble breathing, wheezing, a cough, or a feeling of fullness in the chest.
  • An enlarged node in the abdomen can cause trouble eating, pain, or just a feeling of fullness.

In general, most people with localized CD feel well otherwise. In fact, some people have no symptoms at all, and CD is found only when the doctor does a test for another reason. On the other hand, some people with localized CD can also have some of the other symptoms listed below.

Common symptoms of multicentric CD

People with multicentric CD have more than one area of enlarged lymph nodes. The enlarged nodes can be in the chest or abdomen, but multicentric CD often affects lymph nodes in the groin, the underarm area, and on the sides of the neck, which can often be seen or felt as lumps under the skin.

Multicentric CD can also affect lymphoid tissue of internal organs, causing the liver, spleen, or other organs to enlarge. Enlarged organs might be seen or felt as masses under either side of the rib cage. They can also cause problems eating or a sense of fullness (or even pain) in the abdomen.

Other symptoms of CD

In addition, people with either type of CD can have other symptoms (although these symptoms are much more common in people with multicentric CD):

  • Fever
  • Night sweats (that soak the sheets)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nerve damage that leads to numbness and weakness (neuropathy)
  • Leg swelling (edema)
  • Skin rashes

Some of these symptoms might come and go over time.

Amyloidosis, a condition where abnormal proteins build up in body tissues, can occur in CD. This can lead to kidney damage, heart damage, nerve damage, and intestinal problems, mainly diarrhea. If CD is treated successfully, the amyloidosis may improve or even go away.

Anemia (having too few red blood cells) is very common in multicentric CD, and can lead to problems such as fatigue and shortness of breath.

CD is rare, and the symptoms above often have other causes. Still, if you have any of these symptoms and they don’t go away within a few weeks (or they get worse), see a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

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Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Medical Review: January 10, 2017 Last Revised: February 7, 2018

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