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Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma to Watch Out For

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Updated June 05, 2014

When the initial symptoms of multiple myeloma begin to appear, they often go unnoticed because they are quite vague and non-specific. Symptoms are similar to those of other, less serious illnesses and conditions, often causing a delay in diagnosis. Some people with multiple myeloma never experience any symptoms.

The signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma also can be described as complications of the disease. Bone pain, fatigue, numbness, and tingling are all symptoms that can be experienced by the patient, but the actual confirmation of multiple myeloma is detected though blood testing and other medical tests.

Bone Pain and Bone Loss/Fractures

Bone pain is a commonly experienced symptom of multiple myeloma. Low back pain is frequent, but pain can occur in other areas, like ribs, arms, legs, the skull and pelvis. Bone pain is relatively common and also caused by many other non-malignant conditions, so it isn't exactly an initial red flag for multiple myeloma among physicians.

Bone loss and unexplained fractures are also a symptoms of multiple myeloma. The spine, ribs, and pelvis are common sites of fracture caused by bone weakening due to multiple myeloma.

Elevated Calcium Levels in the Blood

Elevated levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia)also is a sign of multiple myeloma. As myeloma cells break down bone, calcium is released into the bloodstream. Hypercalcemia can cause:
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue/weakness
  • excessive thirst/urination
  • constipation
  • mental confusion
  • kidney failure

Anemia and Multiple Myeloma

When the amount of red blood cells decreases in the body, the resulting condition is anemia. It can cause paleness, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. As myeloma cells begin to replace red blood cells in the bone marrow, crowding out normal cells, RBCs begin to decrease.

Kidney Failure

High levels of calcium and excess myeloma proteins in the blood are filtered through the kidneys, causing damage. As kidneys begin to fail, they lose their ability to regulate fluids and elctrolytes in the body, and remove waste products from the body. Swelling, especially in the legs, is a symptom of kidney failure, along with weakness. Kidney failure tends to occur most often in people with advanced cases of multiple myeloma.

Hyperviscosity

Thickened blood, or hyperviscosity, can be a sign of multiple myeloma. In hyperviscosity, the blood is resistant to flow. The excessive amounts of proteins made by cancerous plasma cells are the cause of hyperviscosity in people with multiple myeloma. People who suffer from hyperviscosity syndrome may experience:
  • nose bleeds
  • bruising
  • blurred vision
  • numbing or tingling sensation in arms or legs
  • heart failure

Frequent Infections

Lowered white cell blood counts can cause frequent infections in people with multiple myeloma. Common infections with people low WBC count include pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTI), sinusitis, and kidney infections. This is especially true for those who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Unexplained Weight Loss

While losing weight without effort may be welcomed by many, it can be a symptom of many types of cancer, including multiple myeloma.

Numbness and Tingling Sensations

When the spine is affected by multiple myeloma, spinal cord compression can occur, putting pressure on spinal nerves, causing a multitude of complications. Numbness, tingling, and pain of the back and arms and legs are common effects of spinal cord compression. Loss of control of the bowel and bladder are also a characteristic of spinal cord compression.

Numbness and tingling is also a result of hyperviscosity.

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