Font Size
A
A
A

Myeloma (cont.)

Myeloma Causes and Symptoms

The cause of myeloma is unknown. Several factors have been linked to myeloma, including genetic abnormalities, exposures to certain chemicals and other conditions in the workplace (petrochemical industry workers, leather workers, book binders, cosmetologists, shipyard workers, metallurgic industry workers), exposure to very large doses of radiation, certain viral infections, and immune system dysfunction. However, how any of these factors actually causes myeloma is unknown. Some people who develop myeloma have none of these risk factors.

The symptoms of myeloma depend upon the extent of plasma cell disease and the specific properties of the M proteins secreted.

  • Unexpected early osteoporosis can be a sign of myeloma. A person considered too young to be "hunched over" or who notices progressive loss of height or alteration in spinal curvature may have myeloma in the vertebral bones.
  • Osteolytic bone lesions: The most common symptom is pain. The most frequently affected areas of the skeleton are the ribs and the spine, resulting in chest wall or back pain. In more advanced myeloma, bone degeneration can cause bones to press on nerve structures, resulting in tingling, numbness, burning sensation, loss of function of a limb or joint, or even paralysis.
  • Hypercalcemia and kidney damage: Common symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, constipation, decreased urine production, dehydration and increased thirst, restlessness, difficulty in thinking or concentrating, and confusion. Patients without hypercalcemia but with kidney damage may have no symptoms or may complain of foamy urine.
  • Hyperviscosity syndrome: Symptoms associated with sludging in the blood vessels may include spontaneous bruising or bleeding (from the mouth, nose, or internally), visual problems (due to bleeding and vascular problems in the eye [retinopathy]), neurologic problems (lethargy, confusion, sleepiness, headache, problems with sensation or movement in one area of the body [neuropathy], stroke), and shortness of breath or chest pain (due to congestive heart failure caused by an increased blood volume meant to dilute the blood).
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia): Symptoms include fatigue, paleness, and mild shortness of breath.
  • Low white blood cell count: Symptoms include increased frequency of and susceptibility to infections.
  • Low platelet count: Symptoms include spontaneous bruising, bleeding, or tiny red spots on the skin caused by slowed or unproductive blood clotting. Bleeding can also be internal. Undetected bleeding may occur in the brain or digestive tract.
  • Cryoglobulinemia: The usual symptoms are increased sensitivity to cold and/or pain and numbness in the fingers and toes during cold weather.
  • Amyloidosis: The symptoms are related to malfunction or failure of organs or structures infiltrated by amyloid deposits. These symptoms include problems such as heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, and blood vessel damage.
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Reviewer:

Must Read Articles Related to Myeloma

Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone Marrow Biopsy A bone marrow biopsy is performed to evaluate bone marrow function or to determine the cause of some infections, diagnose tumors, determine how far a disease, s...learn more >>
Cancer Symptoms
Cancer Symptoms Most symptoms and signs of cancer may also be explained by harmless conditions, so it's important to limit one's risk factors and undergo appropriate cancer scr...learn more >>
Cancer: What You Need to Know
Cancer: What You Need to Know The news comes like a sledgehammer into the stomach: "I'm sorry to tell you, but you have cancer." Every year, a million Americans are devastated by news of can...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Myeloma:

Myeloma - Treatment

What was the treatment for your myeloma?

Myeloma - Prevention and Outlook

What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting myeloma?

Myeloma - Experience

Please describe your experience with myeloma.

Multiple Myeloma - Symptoms

The symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?





Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Myeloma »

Multiple myeloma (MM) is characterized by neoplastic proliferation of plasma cells involving more than 10% of the bone marrow.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary