Signs and Symptoms
The most common signs of myeloma are bone pain and bone fractures for no apparent reason. Pain is most common in the back or ribs, but it can occur in any bone. The pain is usually made worse by movement.
Myeloma cells secrete a chemical called cytokine that stimulates cells to dissolve bone. Myeloma cells secrete other chemicals that can interfere with the formation of new bones. Normally our bodies produce cells that dissolve bone (osteoclasts) and cells that help build new bone (osteoblasts). In myeloma, the osteoclasts work overtime, and the osteoblasts can't keep up, upsetting the cells' balance. This leads to holes in the bones, called lytic spots, and osteoporosis (low bone density). Bones can become frail enough to break or fracture in a minor fall or injury and even during normal activities, such as walking, lifting, sneezing or coughing. If not treated, the thin bones can cause long-lasting bone pain.
Other signs and symptoms include:
- a pale complexion (from anemia)
- recurring infections
- numbness, tingling, burning or pain in the hands or feet (a condition called peripheral neuropathy)
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- decreased alertness
- kidney failure
Another complication of myeloma is called hyperviscosity syndrome, caused by thickening blood. This leads to inadequate blood flow, producing such symptoms as:
- blurred vision
- abnormal bleeding
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
If you're troubled by any of the above symptoms, see your doctor. Sometimes, you may have no symptoms. In this case, your doctor may first detect the disease as a result of a lab test or an X-ray taken for another reason. About one in five patients have no symptoms.