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Multiple myeloma - Symptoms of multiple myeloma

In the early stages, multiple myeloma may not cause any symptoms or complications, and may only be diagnosed after a routine blood or urine test.

However, it will eventually cause a wide range of symptoms and complications. The most common symptoms are outlined below.

Bone pain

Pain can be a symptom of the bone disease that often occurs in myeloma. The middle or lower back, rib cage and hips are most frequently affected. The pain is often persistent and described as dull and aching, and it is often made worse by movement.

Bone fractures

The spine and ribs are the bones that most commonly fracture as a result of myeloma bone disease.

Breaks can occur with only minor or no pressure or injury. Fractures of the spine (vertebrae) can cause the sections of the spine to collapse or 'crush', leading to height loss, pain and occasionally compression of the spinal cord (the main column of nerves running down the back).

Compression of the spinal cord can cause pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the legs and feet, and sometimes problems going to the toilet. These symptoms require urgent medical attention.

Tiredness 

Patients with myeloma often have persistent, overwhelming tiredness. This may be due to the myeloma itself or its complications. The side effects of treatment can also make the tiredness worse.

Effects on the bone marrow

Anaemia

Anaemia is a lack of red blood cells. It can occur as a result of the myeloma itself, or as a side effect of treatment. If you have anaemia, you may feel very tired and breathless.

Lowered immunity

People with myeloma are particularly vulnerable to infection. This is because the condition interferes with the immune system (the body's natural defence against infection and illness), making you more susceptible to infection.

Low platelets (blood clotting cells)

Bruising and bleeding can often occur in myeloma because the plasma cells (myeloma cancer cells) in your bone marrow stop platelets from being made.

Hypercalcaemia

Hypercalcaemia is where the level of calcium in the blood is too high. It can develop in people with myeloma because bone disease causes too much calcium to be released from affected bones.

Kidney damage

Kidney damage can occur in people with myeloma for a variety of reasons.

The abnormal protein produced by myeloma cells can damage the kidneys, as can other complications, such as hypercalcaemia and dehydration. Also, some medications used to treat myeloma can occasionally cause kidney damage.


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