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Signs and symptoms of Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia (WM)

Signs and symptoms of WM
Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM) often develops over a long period of time (years), and some people have no symptoms at all.

However, most people will gradually develop symptoms of WM for two main reasons:

  1. The abnormal cells are filling up the bone marrow or collecting in the lymph nodes or spleen.
  2. Large amounts of IgM are circulating in the bloodstream or targeting tissue and nerves.

Symptoms include:

  • tiredness, weakness and breathlessness
  • infections
  • bruising or bleeding easily
  • swollen glands
  • fevers and night sweats
  • weight loss
  • blurring or loss of vision
  • dizziness or headaches
  • drowsiness, poor concentration or confusion
  • lumps or masses (rare)
  • central nervous system problems such as fits, weakness of facial muscles, double vision (very rare)

You may hear these terms in relation to WM symptoms:

Hyperviscosity

This is when your blood becomes thicker and more slow-flowing than normal due to large amounts of IgM in your bloodstream.  It affects up to 30% of people with WM. Hyperviscosity can cause changes in the back of the eyes, due to pressure in the retinal blood vessels, as well as shortness of breath, nosebleeds, blurred vision and dizziness.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Sometimes, the large amounts of IgM in your bloodstream can damage the nerves in the body’s extremities, causing numbness or tingling in hands and feet, or problems with balance.

Cold Agglutinin Disease (CAD)

In some people with WM, the IgM can cause the red blood cells to stick together in the coolest parts of the body, such as hands and feet, tip of the nose or the ear lobes. This can cause poor circulation in these areas. Some people experience a condition called cold agglutinin disease, where the clumps of red blood cells in the extremities are broken down by the immune system, which needs prompt treatment including a blood transfusion.

It is important to mention all your symptoms to the doctor, especially if symptoms are changing or getting worse over time.

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