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Myeloma - Symptoms & Causes

Multiple myeloma, also sometimes called simply myeloma, is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow. These abnormal plasma cells can crowd out healthy blood cells and cause complications like bone pain, anaemia, and kidney problems.

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Myeloma Causes & Risk Factors

Exact myeloma causes remain a complex puzzle in the medical community. It begins inconspicuously with a single abnormal plasma cell in the bone marrow. Something triggers this plasma cell to transform into a cancerous myeloma cell, which then rapidly multiplies.

Cancer cells proliferate excessively and outlive their expected lifespan, unlike healthy cells, which have a regulated growth and death cycle. In the case of myeloma, these cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow, overshadowing and displacing healthy blood cells.

In their defective state, myeloma cells continue to attempt antibody production, resulting in a type of antibody known as monoclonal proteins, or M proteins. However, these proteins are dysfunctional and accumulate in the body, causing further complications such as kidney damage and bone weakening.

Certain factors may heighten the risk of developing multiple myeloma:

  • Age Factor:

The likelihood of developing multiple myeloma increases with age.

  • Gender Influence:

Men are at a slightly higher risk.

  • Racial Disparity:

Black individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma than people of other races.

  • Family History:

Having a close family member with multiple myeloma can elevate the risk.

  • Presence of MGUS:

MGUS can evolve into multiple myeloma, thereby increasing the risk.


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Myeloma Symptoms

In its earliest phase—known as smouldering multiple myeloma—the disease exists quietly without causing any noticeable symptoms.

Despite this, certain changes can be detected through medical tests:

  • Bone Marrow Changes:

Tests might reveal that a significant portion of the bone marrow is occupied by cancerous plasma cells.

  • Abnormal Antibodies:

The presence of unusual antibodies can be detected in blood or urine tests.

When multiple myeloma becomes symptomatic, the signs can vary widely

Bone Pain:

This is often felt in the spine, chest, or hips and can range from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Digestive Issues:

Nausea and constipation are common, disrupting normal eating and digestive patterns.

Appetite Changes:

A noticeable loss of appetite can occur, often leading to unintentional weight loss.

Mental Changes:

Some people experience mental fogginess or confusion.

Fatigue:

A pervasive sense of tiredness and weakness, not relieved by rest, is common.

Frequent Infections:

An increased susceptibility to infections indicates a compromised immune system.

Increased Thirst and Urination:

Excessive thirst and the need to urinate frequently can be signs of kidney problems.

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