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Some patients with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all. Others can have common symptoms of the disease including:
Shortages of red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets are common in multiple myeloma and might lead to other symptoms.
High levels of calcium in the blood (called hypercalcemia) can cause:
If the level of calcium gets high enough, you can even slip into a coma.
If myeloma weakens the bones in the spine, they can collapse and press on spinal nerves. This is called spinal cord compression and can cause
This is a medical emergency and you should contact your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. If spinal cord compression is not treated right away, there is a possibility of permanent paralysis.
Sometimes, the abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells are toxic to nerves. This damage can lead to weakness and numbness and sometimes a “pins and needles” sensation. This is also called peripheral neuropathy.
In some patients, large amounts of myeloma protein can cause the blood to “thicken.” This thickening is called hyperviscosity. It can slow blood flow to the brain and cause:
Patients with these symptoms should call their doctor. Removing the protein from the blood using a procedure called plasmapheresis can rapidly reverse this problem. (Note: This is not something that can be treated with drugs known as “blood thinners.”)
Myeloma protein can damage the kidneys. Early on, this doesn’t cause any symptoms, but signs of kidney damage may be seen on a blood test or a urine test. As the kidneys start to fail, they lose the ability to get rid of excess salt, fluid, and body waste products. This can lead to symptoms such as:
Myeloma patients are much more likely to get infections. When someone with myeloma gets an infection, they may be slow to respond to treatment. That person may stay sick for a long time. Pneumonia is a common and serious infection seen in myeloma patients.
Patients with amyloidosis (discussed in What Is Multiple Myeloma?) can have some of the same problems as patients with myeloma, such as kidney problems and nerve damage. They can also have other problems, such as:
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Munshi NC, Anderson KC. Ch. 112 Plasma cell neoplasms. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.
Rajkumar SV, Dispenzieri A. Multiple myeloma and related disorders. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th edition. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier: 2014:1991-2017.
Last Revised: February 28, 2018
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