Myelom-Gruppe Rhein-Main

Last modified: 12 January 2013

Symptoms

At the outset of the illness, most patients do not experience any symptoms. As the illness progresses, uncharacteristic symptoms occur such as a reduction in physical fitness, grogginess, fatigue, weakness, less frequently a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or loss of weight. The following symptoms, described by organ systems, are complications of the illness in its advanced stages. For better understanding, please first of all read the page entitled "What is multiple myeloma?"

  • Bone pain frequently begins slowly and increases with time. Acute, severe pain is typical for bone fractures in the vertebral column, the ribs or in the long, tubular bones.
  • Back pain in the dorsal and lumbar spine is frequently at the forefront.
  • A height reduction of several centimetres is frequently observed. The cause of this is a sinking together of vertebrae.
  • The high calcium level in the blood, stemming from osteolysis (bone disintegration), causes increased elimination of calcium in the urine, the volume of urine increases and there is a risk of the body becoming dehydrated. The high calcium level also leads to nausea and vomiting, as a result of which even more fluid is lost.
  • With roughly 20% of all patients, diminishing kidney function must be reckoned with on account of damage to the renal tubules.
  • The extent of the complaints resulting from the change in the blood count depends on the number of degenerated plasma cells. The maturing of the red blood cells is the first factor to be impaired. Symptoms of anaemia are paleness, weakness, fatigue, headache and shortness of breath, particularly during physical strain.
  • As the illness progresses, a decrease in the number of leukocytes (white blood cells) and thrombocytes (blood platelets) can occur. A low number of leukocytes results in increased susceptibility to infection.
  • Roughly 20 to 25% of patients suffer from recurring, predominantly bacterial infections. In the early stages of the illness, infections of the respiratory tracts are the most common. Infections of the urinal tract are a typical complication in the advanced form of the illness.
  • The thrombocyte deficiency is reflected in an increased tendency to bleed. Nose bleeds or increased menstrual bleeding with women are typical of this.
  • Only very few patients experience pathological changes to the nervous system. If the long nerves in the arms and legs are affected, burning pain and a loss of sensation can occur in the extremities. It is only in rare cases and following an extended course of the illness that a paraplegia (where the lower half of the body is paralysed) can result with paralysis, loss of sensation and incontinence.