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Cartersville Medical Center
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Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma develops slowly over the course of several years. The body is initially able to compensate for changes in blood so symptoms may not appear until advanced stages. Symptoms depend on the blood cells affected and the location of the tumors. If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to cancer. Most of these symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. However, it is still important to discuss them with your doctor. Early detection and treatment improve outcomes for both cancer and other health conditions.

Bone Pain

Bone pain can appear anywhere, but is most common in the back, ribs, hips, or skull. Normally, healthy bone tissue is maintained through a constant process of breaking down old bone tissue and rebuilding new tissue. Myeloma cells can boost bone destruction without increasing the rebuilding process. As a result the bone becomes weak and easily fractured. Even small fractures in the bone can cause pain.

Bone pain can also be caused by growth of tumors.

Symptoms Related to Decreases in Normal Blood Cells

A drop in the number of normal white blood cells makes it harder for the body to fight infection. Symptoms may include:

  • Frequent infections like colds or sinus infections
  • Persistent fever that is not specific to another condition
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Night sweats
  • Minor cuts that heal slowly—the area around the cut may become red and swollen

A drop in the number of normal red blood cells is called anemia, which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the body's tissues. Symptoms of anemia may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Headache

A drop in the number of normal platelet cells makes it harder for blood to clot properly. Without clotting, even small injuries can lead to severe bleeding. Symptoms may include:

  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Tiny red spots under the skin
  • Heavy menstruation

Symptoms Related to Increase in Blood Calcium

The accelerated breakdown of bone tissue caused by multiple myeloma releases excess levels of calcium into the blood. In most cases, elevated calcium levels in the blood may go undetected. As levels increase, serious symptoms may appear, which require treatment. High levels of calcium in the blood called hypercalcemia may cause:

  • Bone pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Loss of appetite with or without unintended weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Kidney problems
  • Impaired mental function and confusion

Untreated or severe hypercalcemia can to kidney failure, coma, or death.

Other Symptoms

Depending on it's location, multiple myeloma tumors can cause:

  • A tumor can press on spinal nerves which can lead to:
    • Weakness or numbness in the legs
    • Back pain
    • Burning or tingling pain, or numbness—peripheral neuropathy
  • Tumors or other injury to the kidneys may cause:
    • Collection of fluid in the legs or shortness of breath if the lungs are affected
    • Itchy skin
    • Fatigue
  • Abnormal levels of blood cells can lead to blood thickening and cause:
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Swollen tongue
  • Weakness in the wrist or hand—carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diarrhea

Revision Information

  • General information about plasma cell neoplasms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloma/patient/myeloma-treatment-pdq. Updated October 1, 2015. Accessed May 12, 2016.

  • Hypercalcemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 7, 2015. Accessed May 12, 2016.

  • Multiple myeloma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003121-pdf.pdf. Accessed May 12, 2016.

  • Multiple myeloma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 7, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

  • Multiple myeloma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/plasma-cell-disorders/multiple-myeloma. Updated August 2013. Accessed May 12, 2016.

  • Signs and symptoms. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/disease-information/myeloma/signs-and-symptoms. Accessed May 12, 2016.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Cartersville Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.