Symptoms and Risk Factors

There are a number of symptoms associated with multiple myeloma, but patients may not recognize that they indicate a severe problem. Mild or unspecific symptoms are easily written off as the ordinary aches and pains of aging.

In some cases, multiple myeloma is first identified on routine bloodwork performed as part of an annual wellness exam. This is one reason why it’s important to see your primary care provider for regular check-ups, especially as you age.

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?

Multiple myeloma can affect many systems in the body. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fragile or brittle bones
  • Pain in the bones
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Increased bruising and bleeding
  • Unexplained fevers
  • Recurring infections
  • Difficulty breathing

If the patient is experiencing hypercalemia, or an excess of calcium in the blood, they may notice:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Mental impairment or confusion

If the patient is also experiencing amyloidosis, they may observe:

  • Purple spots appearing on their skin
  • A swollen tongue
  • Tingling sensations or numbness in the feet and legs
  • Swelling in the hands and feet

Risk Factors

There is no way to predict for sure whether someone will develop multiple myeloma. However, most cases of multiple myeloma develop in older patients. This is because our cells become more susceptible to genetic mutations as we age.

Individuals might be at a higher risk for multiple myeloma if they:

  • Are male
  • Are African-American
  • Have been diagnosed with MGUS or plasmacytoma
  • Were ever exposed to radiation or chemicals known to cause multiple myeloma
  • Have a family history of plasma cell neoplasms