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POEMS syndrome Infosheet

This Infosheet explains what POEMS is, what might cause it, what the symptoms are, how it is diagnosed and how it is treated and managed.

POEMS syndrome is a rare type of plasma cell disorder that can affect multiple systems in the body. It is named after the
five common features of the syndrome:

  • Polyneuropathy
  • Organomegaly
  • Endocrinopathy
  • Monoclonal plasma cell disorder
  • Skin changes

These five features – known as the ‘major criteria’ of the disorder – are the main characteristics of POEMS syndrome. There are other possible features of POEMS syndrome (‘minor criteria’) which are covered by the infosheet.

The most common symptoms result from the peripheral neuropathy associated with the syndrome. Peripheral neuropathy is often the most debilitating feature of POEMS syndrome. The first signs of peripheral neuropathy include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet which progressively worsens over time. Pain, discomfort and weakness in the hands and feet are common features of POEMS syndrome and weakness is often an early symptom of the syndrome.
The infosheet lists a number of other symptoms, depending on the organ systems involved.

Not all of the five major criteria are always present in POEMS syndrome. POEMS syndrome may be diagnosed
if two major criteria and one additional minor criteria are present in a patient.

Common treatments are chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Other forms of treatment could include
High-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation, and these are detailed in the infosheet.

Finally the resource covers some of the future directions of research around causes and treatment.