POEMS syndrome is a rare blood disorder that damages your nerves and affects other parts of your body. POEMS stands for these signs and symptoms:
- Polyneuropathy. Numbness, tingling and weakness in your legs — and over time, maybe in your hands — and difficulty breathing. This is an essential feature in the diagnosis of POEMS syndrome.
- Organomegaly. Enlarged spleen, liver or lymph nodes.
- Endocrinopathy/edema. Abnormal hormone levels that can result in an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes, sexual problems, fatigue, swelling in your limbs, and problems with metabolism and other essential functions.
- Monoclonal-protein. Abnormal bone marrow cells (plasma cells) that produce a protein (monoclonal protein) that can be found in the bloodstream. This is an essential feature in the diagnosis of POEMS syndrome. Monoclonal-protein is often associated with unusual bone hardening or thickening.
- Skin changes. More color than normal on your skin, red spots, possibly thicker skin, and increased facial or leg hair.
The cause of POEMS syndrome isn't known. But people with POEMS syndrome have an increased number of plasma cells. These cells produce an abnormal amount of a type of protein, which can damage other parts of the body.
POEMS syndrome can be misdiagnosed because the signs and symptoms mimic those of other disorders. POEMS syndrome progresses rapidly without treatment and can become life-threatening, so early diagnosis is important.
Treatment for POEMS syndrome might improve your symptoms but doesn't cure the condition. Treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. The outlook for people with POEMS syndrome has improved greatly over the past decade or so.