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Symptoms and complications
Myeloma can affect the body in several ways. Most of the symptoms and complications of myeloma are caused by the build-up of the abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow and the presence of the paraprotein in the blood or in the urine.
The most common symptoms and complications include:
- Pain: the main cause of pain for myeloma patients is myeloma bone disease. Effective control and management of pain is an important aspect of myeloma treatment.
- Bone disease: the middle or lower back, the rib cage and the hips are the most frequently affected places.
- Fatigue: due to the myeloma itself, to one or more of its complications (eg anaemia), or it can be a side-effect of treatment.
- Recurring infection: common in myeloma patients because the myeloma and its treatments interfere with the immune system.
- Anaemia: a reduction in the number of red blood cells. It can occur as a result of the myeloma or as a side-effect of treatment and can cause fatigue, weakness or breathlessness
- Kidney damage: can be caused by the myeloma itself or as a side-effect of treatment.
- Hypercalcaemia: a condition in which the level of calcium in the blood is too high. It can occur as a result of myeloma bone disease and can cause thirst, nausea, vomiting, confusion and/or constipation.
- Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the nerves that make up the peripheral nervous system. It can be caused by the treatments for myeloma and also the myeloma itself.
Not everyone will have all or any of the symptoms and complications listed. Supportive treatments are commonly used alongside and after anti-myeloma treatment to relieve and in some cases, help prevent these symptoms and complications.