Because multiple myeloma affects a wide variety of body systems, there are numerous signs and symptoms that may appear during the course of the condition. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood plasma cells and is considered a progressive condition. The blood plasma cells are responsible for creating the antibodies needed by the body to fight infections. The development of multiple myeloma corrupts the DNA of the blood plasma cells, causing a number of changes to the cells. The corruption of the DNA causes the cells to grow abnormally, decreases their ability to produce antibodies, causes them to live longer, and causes them to reproduce rapidly. Because the cells cannot perform properly, they cause a large number of problems within the body. The rapid reproduction of the abnormal cells also begins to take up the room needed by the healthy cells to perform their normal functions. As the number of abnormal cells increases, the levels of healthy blood cells in the body decreases.
The progression of multiple myeloma has been found to cause a wide range of signs of the condition. Hypercalcemia, which is an abnormally high amount of calcium in the blood, is one of the clinical manifestations of the development of multiple myeloma. Individuals with the condition may also experience anemia, increased risk of infection, renal damage, and osteoporosis. The osteoporosis is most commonly located in the ribs, skull, spine, and pelvis of the affected individual, causing brittle bones and an increased risk of bone breakage from minor trauma or everyday activities.
There are often no symptoms present at the onset of multiple myeloma. In fact, many cases of multiple myeloma are discovered when the results of a routine blood test return as abnormal. If symptoms do appear in the early stages of multiple myeloma, they are usually mild, vague, and can easily be mistaken for the symptoms of a common cold or some other mild illness. The initial symptoms of multiple myeloma include pain in the lower back or ribs, fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite. As the condition progresses, the individual may start to experience kidney problems as the high levels of protein and calcium in the blood begin to impair the function of the kidneys. The typical symptoms of impaired renal function include restlessness, fatigue, confusion, constipation, increased urine production, nausea, and vomiting.
Recurrent infections are also a typical symptom of multiple myeloma. Because the body’s immune system is compromised, the body is unable to fight off infection as effectively leading to an increased number of infections and a longer recovery period. Multiple myeloma may also damage the nervous system, causing numbness, tingling, and pain in numerous areas of the body. Other signs that the condition is progressing to a dangerous state include hyperviscosity, which is a thickening of the blood due to the high amounts of proteins present. Individuals may also experience amyloidosis, which is the depositing of excess proteins on the walls of the organs and blood vessels, destroying their elasticity and causing a wide range of complications. Individuals that experience any of the signs or symptoms of multiple myeloma should seek medical treatment immediately to prevent the condition from quickly becoming life threatening.