Myeloma is a type of cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called a B-cell. It generally begins in the bone marrow, and can spread from one location to another. The cancerous cells often appear in multiple patches in the bone marrow, which is why the disease is often called multiple myeloma.

The symptoms of myeloma vary from patient to patient. In the early stages, symptoms may be mild and seem unconnected to each other.

Bone symptoms

Myeloma patients may experience bone pain in any bone, though the areas most commonly affected are the back, hips, and skull. Bones are often weakened by the disease, and patients may develop osteoporosis. As a result, bones may become more fragile and break easily.

Blood symptoms

As a result of bone marrow changes, the number of cells made in the marrow also changes. The cells that are made are often abnormal. Patients may have shortages of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The loss of these cells can cause symptoms including anemia (in which the loss of red blood cells causes weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness), thrombocytopenia (in which loss of platelets causing serious bleeding from even minor injuries), and leukopenia (loss of white blood cells may make people more susceptible to infections).

The growth of tumors in the bone marrow may mean that excess calcium is released from damaged bones. This may cause high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), leading to symptoms including extreme thirst, dehydration, kidney problems, constipation, stomach pain, weakness, and confusion. In severe cases, hypercalcemia can lead to coma.

In some patients, large quantities of protein produced by myeloma cells can cause the blood to become thick. This is called hyperviscosity, and it can slow the blood flow to the brain, which may cause confusion, dizziness, and stroke-like symptoms.

Nervous system symptoms

If the bones of the spine are weakened by myeloma, they can press on spinal nerves. This can cause severe back pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the legs or arms. In cases when these symptoms appear suddenly, patients should seek immediate medical attention.

The abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells can sometimes cause nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), resulting in numbness or “pins and needles” sensations.

Kidney symptoms

The abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells can damage the kidneys. Kidney damage may not cause any symptoms at first, but it can be perceptible in a blood or urine test. Kidney damage may progress to kidney failure, when the kidneys can no longer filter fluid, salt, and waste from the blood. This can cause symptoms including weakness, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs.

Infections

Patients with myeloma are much more prone to infections, and may be slow to respond to treatment. For example, pneumonia is very common in myeloma patients.

 

Last updated: Feb. 27, 2020

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Myeloma Research News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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