POEMS syndrome is a rare blood disorder that damages your nerves and affects many other parts of the 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.
- Organomegaly. Enlarged spleen, liver or lymph nodes.
- Endocrinopathy. Abnormal hormone levels that can result in underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes, sexual problems, fatigue, swelling in your limbs, and problems with metabolism and other essential functions.
- Monoclonal plasmaproliferative disorder. Abnormal bone marrow cells (plasma cells) that produce a protein (monoclonal protein) that can be found in the bloodstream.
- Skin changes. More color than normal on your skin, 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 may become life-threatening, so early diagnosis is important.
Treatment for POEMS syndrome may improve your symptoms but doesn't cure the condition. Treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and peripheral blood stem cell transplant. The outlook for people with POEMS syndrome has improved greatly over the past decade or so.