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Symptoms & complications

Find out about the most common symptoms and complications of myeloma. Download our helpful Infosheets and watch our videos to hear other patients’ stories.

Myeloma can affect your 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 and/or light chains in the body. You can read more about plasma cells in the section What is myeloma? section.

What are the symptoms of myeloma?

Some of the most common symptoms and complications you might experience include:

Read on to find out more about each of these symptoms and complications.

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. Our Pain and myeloma Infoguide has more information.

Watch Roger’s story about dealing with pain:


Myeloma bone disease

Myeloma bone disease occurs when myeloma cells in the bone marrow interfere with the way bone is maintained. Your middle or lower back, rib cage and hips are the areas most likely to be affected, causing pain this these areas. Myeloma bone disease can also cause bones to fracture more easily. All myeloma patients will be given treatment for bone disease, no matter how extensive the damage is.

To find out more download the Myeloma bone disease and bisphosphonates Infoguide and watch this animation on bone disease:


Fatigue

Persistent fatigue, or an overwhelming tiredness, is common in myeloma. It may be due to the myeloma itself, or to a complication such as anaemia – a condition in which the amount of haemoglobin in the blood or the number of red blood cells is below the normal level, causing shortness of breath, weakness and tiredness. Fatigue may also occur as a side effect of treatment.

Download our Fatigue Infoguide and watch Lynn’s story about dealing with fatigue:


Recurring infection

Infections are common in myeloma patients because the myeloma and its treatments interfere with the immune system.

Download our Infection and myeloma Infosheet for more information and what you can be doing to help protect yourself.

Kidney damage

The abnormal protein (paraprotein or light chains) produced in myeloma can damage the kidneys, as can some of its other complications, such as hypercalcaemia (a condition in which the level of calcium in the blood is too high). Some of the drugs used to treat myeloma can also sometimes cause kidney damage.

Read our Myeloma and the kidney Infoguide for more information about this complication and how it’s treated. This animation on kidney disease also explains more:

Peripheral neuropathy

Damage to the nerves that make up the peripheral nervous system – that’s the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord – is known as peripheral neuropathy. It can cause ‘pins and needles’, numbness, unusual sensations and/or increased sensitivity to touch in your hands and feet. This can be caused by the treatments for myeloma and also the myeloma itself.

Download the Peripheral neuropathy Infosheet to find out more and get some tips on how peripheral neuropathy can be managed.

How are symptoms and complications managed?

Not everyone will have all or any of these symptoms and complications, but if you experience any of them, there is support available to help you manage them. Supportive treatments are commonly used alongside and after anti-myeloma treatment to relieve and, in some cases, help prevent these symptoms and complications.

It can be helpful to keep track of how you’re feeling. Order our specially created Patient diary to monitor your symptoms.

Do symptoms change over time?

Myeloma symptoms vary between patients, with some people having different ones over time. You may not have the same symptoms at relapse as you did at diagnosis.

Early symptoms of myeloma

The symptoms that people often experience at the start of their myeloma are fatigue, pain (including back pain), easily broken bones and recurring infections.

Myeloma symptoms can be quite vague, and early symptoms like back pain can easily be ignored or incorrectly attributed to something else before a diagnosis. That’s why we’re working hard to give patients a timely diagnosis and improve myeloma symptom awareness in the healthcare professional community.

Symptoms and complications at relapse

At relapse, you may have new or worsening symptoms, so it’s important to let your healthcare team know if anything changes. These symptoms and complications might not necessarily be the same as the ones you felt when you were newly diagnosed.

Download more information

We’ve created further resources to support you with the symptoms and complications of myeloma. Each booklet contains information on the cause, the signs and symptoms, how it’s treated, and tips for self-management and prevention.

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Speak to one of our Myeloma Information Specialists

If you need information, emotional support, practical advice or just a listening hear, our Myeloma Information Specialists are here for you. You can call them on 0800 980 3332 (Mon – Fri, 9-5) or email them on askthenurse@myeloma.org.uk