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What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer of the plasma cells in the blood. Normally, these plasma cells are responsible for producing antibodies and fighting infections. In multiple myeloma, however, these plasma cells begin to grow out of control in the bone marrow so much so that the normal blood cells are affected. Without treatment from Hematologist in Islamabad  these plasma cells can produce abnormal proteins and cause complications. Read on to know more about multiple myeloma:

What is multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the white blood cells that produce antibodies and fight infections. Rather than producing helpful antibodies, multiple myeloma cells produce abnormal proteins and affect other cell lines. 

In some people, multiple myeloma can produce no symptoms, even though there are signs of multiple myeloma in the blood tests. In such cases, healthcare providers recommend careful waiting and monitoring of health condition on house.

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?

The symptoms of multiple myeloma are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Nausea
  • Constipation 
  • Bone pain 
  • Mental confusion 
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight loss 
  • Fatigue

What are the causes of multiple myeloma?

In multiple myeloma, plasma cells in the bone marrow grow at a rapid rate. These cells then impact the production of normal blood cells, and overwhelm the healthy cells. As a result, there is fatigue, and inability of the body to fight infections. 

Unlike healthy plasma cells, the antibodies produced by plasma cells of multiple myeloma, are abnormal—called monoclonal or M proteins. These antibodies build in the body and damage the organs. 

Who is at risk of developing multiple myeloma?

The risk of multiple myeloma increases in:

  • Increasing age: most cases of multiple myeloma are diagnosed when the patients are in their 60s. Thus, the risk rises with increasing age. 
  • Family history of multiple myeloma: people with first degree relatives having multiple myeloma are at increased risk of it.  
  • Gender: men are more at risk of having this disease in comparison to women
  • History of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS): almost always, multiple myeloma starts as MGUS. Therefore, having this condition increases the predisposition to developing multiple myeloma. MGUS involves presence of M proteins, produced by the plasma cells, in the blood. 

How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?

The diagnosis of multiple myeloma is made with the help of the following investigations:

  • Complete blood count: the complete blood count of an individual with multiple myeloma reveals abnormal levels of plasma cells, and reduced blood count of other cell lines. 
  • Excessive M protein: blood tests also reveal excessive M protein produced by the myeloma cells. 
  • Urine complete exam: the excessive M proteins of the plasma cells show up in the urine and are called Bence Jones proteins
  • Bone marrow biopsy: sample of the aspirated bone marrow when examined shows myeloma cells with gene mutations.
  • Imaging: X-ray, CT and MRI imaging help to detect bone problems secondary to multiple myeloma.

What are the treatment options for multiple myeloma?

The treatment options include:

  • Targeted therapy: this involves targeted regimen to focus on the weaknesses in the cancer cells, causing them to die. 
  • Corticosteroids: these drugs mitigate the immune response and control inflammation.  
  • Immunotherapy: uses the immune system of the body to fight the cancerous cells.  
  • Bone marrow transplant: helps to replace the diseased bone marrow. 

What are the possible complications of multiple myeloma?

According to experts like Hematologist in Lahore, the complications associated with multiple myeloma include:

  • Predisposition to infections: while normal plasma cells help to fight infections, the abnormal plasma cells produced in multiple myeloma curb the ability of the body to fight microorganisms. Therefore, there is increased predisposition to infections in multiple myeloma.
  • Reduced cell count: as the plasma cells grow out of control in the bone marrow in multiple myeloma, the normal blood cells are crowded out. Consequently, there is anemia and reduced cell count of other blood cells. 
  • Kidney disorders: the excessive proteins produced in multiple myeloma, can impact the kidneys and even cause acute kidney injury (AKI). 
  • Bone disorders: in multiple myeloma, excessive plasma cells are produced in the bone marrow and this in turn can cause bone disorders including broken bones, bone pain and thinning bones. 
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