Multiple myeloma symptoms may not develop during the early stages of this disease. The following article will cover some information regarding the same.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of certain kind of white blood cells called plasma cells present in the bone marrow. These plasma cells are involved in making the proteins (antibodies) that are helpful in fighting infections. In this cancer, the plasma cells multiply abnormally, thereby raising their number. These excessive plasma cells release unhealthy levels of protein (called immunoglobulin) into the bones and blood. The accumulation of this excess protein throughout the body leads to organ damage.
The exact cause of this cancer is not known. Some suspected causes and risk factors include:
- Family history with cases of multiple myeloma
- Being male
- People over 60 years of age
- Patients with monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS)
Many patients do not develop any symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, some of the symptoms experienced by patients are as follows:
Bones are the most common organs damaged by this cancer. Inside the bone marrow, the cancer cells release chemicals that prompt the body to dissolve areas of bone. This creates weak areas of bone called lytic lesions as the bones become soft and porous due to loss of calcium. This causes high levels of calcium in blood leading to a condition called hypercalcemia. This condition causes one to experience symptoms such as nausea, excessive thirst, frequent urination, loss of appetite, constipation, weight loss, abdominal pain, mental confusion, etc.
Decreased Red Blood Cells
The cancer cells affecting the bone marrow may decrease the production of red blood cells. It may even lead to reduction in white blood cells and platelets. This may lead to symptoms such as lethargy, shortness of breath, bruising of skin, unusual bleeding like nosebleeds and gum bleeds, repeated respiratory infections, chest infections, and bladder infections.
As the red blood cell count decreases, the concentration of hemoglobin (which transports oxygen to the organs) also decreases. This condition is called anemia which is characterized by symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and a reduced tolerance to activity.
The excess of proteins and calcium in the body may lead to kidney damage. As the kidneys fail to regulate the electrolytes and fluids in the body, it causes increase in toxins and waste products within the blood. This leads to swelling in legs, weakness, and kidney failure.
Hyperviscosity, that is thickened blood, is a symptom that occurs due to excessive proteins in the blood. Hyperviscosity may cause nosebleeds, blurred vision, numbness, and tingling sensation in arms and legs, and heart failure.
Spinal Cord Compression
In some cases, when the bones of the spine are damaged by the cancer cells, they cause the spine to press down on the nerves within the spinal cord. This condition is called spinal cord compression. The symptoms of this condition include tingling sensation, numbness in legs and feet, and trouble urinating as well as passing stools due to incontinence of urinary and bowel system.
Although there is no cure for multiple myeloma, the following treatment options can help relieve the pain, control complications of the disease, stabilize your condition, and slow down the progress of the disease:
- Stem cell transplantation
- Radiation therapy
- Use of drugs such as Bortezomib, Thalidomide, and Lenalidomide
The doctor may even prescribe drugs for the back pain, kidney complications, bone loss, anemia, and infections, if any.
You must make sure to undergo regular check ups, especially if you have a family history of cancers. Regular exercise, plenty of fluid intake, and a balanced diet can help keep multiple myeloma under control.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.