One of the common early symptoms of multiple myeloma is bone pain. The disease can affect the bones in your spine and ribs, causing backaches. You may also get shooting pain in your arms or legs caused by a tumor in your spine.
Not everyone who has multiple myeloma has symptoms. Most people develop symptoms over time. The disease often is at a later stage once you have a sign of multiple myeloma, such as bone pain.
When the disease causes symptoms, it’s called active myeloma and must be treated.
Smoldering multiple myeloma and MGUS do not have symptoms. We often don’t treat them until you have symptoms.
Smoldering multiple myeloma and MGUS are precancerous conditions. Precancerous means they can become cancer. In this case, they turn into multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma starts in plasma cells. They play an important role in your immune system, making antibodies (proteins) that fight off infections.
When a normal plasma cell turns into a myeloma cell, cancer cells grow quickly and multiply. This affects your normal blood cells and causes many of the symptoms of multiple myeloma.
Myeloma cells harm how your body makes healthy blood cells and fights infection. This makes you have infections more often.
Myeloma cells can cause bone marrow cells to take calcium from your bones. High levels of calcium build up in your blood, causing several symptoms.
Abnormal (not normal) plasma cells can harm your kidneys. The role of kidneys is to filter waste from your body. M-proteins (abnormal proteins) harm kidneys and affect how well they can filter, causing several symptoms.
The most common signs of multiple myeloma are known by the acronym CRAB:
C = Calcium elevation. Hypercalcemia (HY-per-kal-SEE-mee-uh) is a very high level of calcium level in the blood.
R = Renal failure. Kidney failure is caused by a high level of abnormal proteins in your blood.
A = Anemia. Myeloma cells stop your bone marrow from making blood cells.
B = Bone disease. Multiple myeloma causes bone pain, weakness, and breaks.
Multiple myeloma can affect the bones in your spine and ribs, causing backaches. Compression fractures (breaks) in your spine can cause severe (very bad) back pain. You also can get shooting pain in your arms or legs caused by a tumor in your spine.
You may get infections often because of your weakened immune system. It’s common to get bacterial infections in your respiratory (breathing) or urinary (pee) systems.
Fatigue (feeling very tired)
Fatigue is a common symptom of many different types of cancer, including multiple myeloma. It can be caused by anemia (not enough red blood cells) or harm to your kidneys.
High levels of calcium in your blood can make you feel confused, depressed (sad), or “foggy.” You also can have vision loss, headaches, or dizziness because of high levels of proteins in your blood.
Nausea (feeling like throwing up) and vomiting (throwing up)
Multiple myeloma can cause high levels of calcium in your blood, which leads to nausea and vomiting.
Weight loss is a common symptom of many types of cancer, including multiple myeloma.
Bruising or bleeding easily
High levels of proteins in your blood can make you bruise more easily. It also can cause nosebleeds.
Numbness in legs or arms
High levels of proteins in your blood can cause numbness, tingling, or peripheral neuropathy (burning pain in your hands or feet).