Signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can vary from person to person. Early in the disease, the condition may not cause any symptoms (smoldering multiple myeloma). As the disease progresses, it's likely that you'll experience at least one of the four major problems common to multiple myeloma, which include:

  • A high level of calcium in your blood. This can occur when calcium from affected bones appears in your blood. High calcium levels cause excessive thirst, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite and confusion.
  • Kidney (renal) failure. High levels of certain types of abnormal monoclonal proteins (M proteins), which are called light chains or Bence Jones proteins, damage the kidneys.
  • Anemia-related fatigue. This fatigue occurs as myeloma cells replace oxygen-carrying red blood cells in your bone marrow.
  • Bone damage and fractures. The type of bone damage in multiple myeloma is referred to as "osteolytic" or "lytic," and appears as "punched out" spots on X-rays. Bone pain is a common symptom, particularly in your back, pelvis, ribs and skull.

These four problems are often referred to by the acronym CRAB, which refers to calcium levels, renal failure, anemia and bone damage.

Other signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma may include:

  • Repeated infections — such as pneumonia, sinusitis, bladder or kidney infections, skin infections, and shingles
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs

When to see a doctor

See your doctor to determine the underlying cause if you develop symptoms common to multiple myeloma, such as weakness, fatigue and bone pain. If initial tests suggest that you may have multiple myeloma, you will likely be referred to a specialist in blood cancers (hematologist or oncologist).

Aug. 16, 2011