Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to help fight infections. Plasma cell disorders are a group of conditions in which there is an overgrowth or abnormal production of plasma cells, which can lead to the overproduction of abnormal proteins that can damage organs and tissues. Multiple myeloma is one of the most well-known plasma cell disorders, but there are other related diseases as well. Multiple myeloma accounts for approximately 1.8% of all cancer cases and 2.1% of all cancer deaths in the United States. While plasma cell disorders are rare, they can have serious consequences for those affected, and it’s important to understand the different types of plasma cell disorders and their characteristics.
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects plasma cells and is characterized by the overproduction of abnormal proteins. The disease can cause a variety of symptoms, including bone pain, weakness, fatigue, anemia, infections, and kidney problems. Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the United States, after non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While the cause of multiple myeloma is not fully understood, it is more common in older adults, men, and African Americans. Treatment options for multiple myeloma may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplant, and supportive care. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, many people with multiple myeloma can manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life. Want to know more about multiple myeloma? Read our blog: Multiple Myeloma: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatments
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a condition in which there is an abnormal protein (M protein) in the blood, but there are no other signs or symptoms of multiple myeloma. MGUS can sometimes progress to multiple myeloma or other plasma cell disorders. However, in many cases, MGUS does not cause any health problems and does not require treatment.
Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects B cells, which are another type of white blood cell. Like multiple myeloma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia can cause an overproduction of abnormal proteins that can lead to various symptoms. These may include weakness, fatigue, anemia, and an increased risk of infections. Treatment options for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplant.
Amyloidosis is a group of diseases in which abnormal proteins accumulate in various tissues and organs, leading to damage and dysfunction. In some cases, amyloidosis can be caused by abnormal plasma cells, similar to multiple myeloma. The symptoms of amyloidosis may vary depending on the organs affected but can include kidney problems, heart problems, and nerve damage. Treatment options for amyloidosis may include chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, and supportive care.
Solitary plasmacytoma is a rare type of plasma cell disorder in which there is a single tumor made up of abnormal plasma cells. It can occur in various parts of the body, such as the bone or soft tissue. Solitary plasmacytoma may progress to multiple myeloma over time. The symptoms of solitary plasmacytoma may vary depending on the location of the tumor but can include bone pain, weakness, and fatigue. Treatment options for solitary plasmacytoma may include radiation therapy, surgery, or chemotherapy.
Plasma Cell Leukemia
Plasma cell leukemia is a rare and aggressive form of leukemia in which there is a high number of abnormal plasma cells in the blood. It can occur as a primary disease or as a progression of multiple myeloma. The symptoms of plasma cell leukemia may include anemia, weakness, fatigue, and an increased risk of infections. Treatment options for plasma cell leukemia may include chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, and targeted therapy. Want to know more about this? Read our blog: Plasma Cell Cancers: Types, Symptoms & Treatments
POEMS syndrome is a rare disorder in which there is an overgrowth of abnormal plasma cells, along with various other symptoms such as nerve damage, skin changes, and organ dysfunction. The acronym “POEMS” stands for the most common features of the disorder: polyneuropathy (nerve damage), organomegaly (enlarged organs), endocrinopathy (hormonal imbalances), monoclonal gammopathy (abnormal proteins in the blood), and skin changes. Treatment options for POEMS syndrome may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplant.
Heavy Chain Diseases
Heavy chain diseases are rare disorders in which there is an overproduction of abnormal immunoglobulin heavy chains, which are components of antibodies. There are three types of heavy chain diseases: alpha, gamma, and mu. Alpha and gamma heavy chain diseases are associated with plasma cell disorders, while mu heavy chain disease is not. The symptoms of heavy chain diseases may vary depending on the type but can include anemia, fatigue, and an increased risk of infections. Treatment options for heavy chain diseases may include chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
Immunoglobulin Deposition Diseases
Immunoglobulin deposition diseases are a group of disorders in which abnormal immunoglobulin proteins deposit in various organs and tissues, leading to damage and dysfunction. There are various types of immunoglobulin deposition diseases, including light chain deposition disease and heavy chain deposition disease. The symptoms of immunoglobulin deposition diseases may vary depending on the type and location of the deposits but can include kidney problems, nerve damage, and skin changes. Treatment options for immunoglobulin deposition diseases may include chemotherapy, plasma exchange, and immunosuppressive therapy.
Plasma Cell Disorders Overview
This table provides a quick and easy-to-read overview of the above-mentioned information about various plasma cell disorders related to multiple myeloma. It includes information on the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and prevalence in the United States for each plasma cell disorder.
|Disorder||Symptoms||Causes||Treatment Options||Prevalence in the US|
|MGUS||None (usually)||Unknown||Watchful waiting||~3% of people over 50|
|Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia||Weakness, fatigue, anemia, infections||Abnormal B cells||Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplant||~1,500 new cases/year|
|Amyloidosis||Kidney problems, heart problems, nerve damage||Abnormal plasma cells or other cells producing proteins||Chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, supportive care||~4,000 new cases/year|
|Solitary plasmacytoma||Bone pain, weakness, fatigue||Abnormal plasma cells||Radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy||Rare|
|Plasma cell leukemia||Anemia, weakness, fatigue, infections||Abnormal plasma cells||Chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, targeted therapy||Rare|
|POEMS syndrome||Polyneuropathy, enlarged organs, hormonal imbalances, abnormal proteins in the blood, skin changes||Overgrowth of abnormal plasma cells||Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant||Rare|
|Heavy chain diseases||Anemia, fatigue, infections||Overproduction of abnormal immunoglobulin heavy chains||Chemotherapy, targeted therapy||Rare|
|Immunoglobulin deposition diseases||Kidney problems, nerve damage, skin changes||Abnormal immunoglobulin proteins depositing in tissues||Chemotherapy, plasma exchange, immunosuppressive therapy||Rare|
|Multiple myeloma||Bone pain, weakness, fatigue, anemia, infections, kidney problems||Abnormal plasma cells producing abnormal proteins||Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplant, supportive care||~34,000 new cases/year|
Talk to Your Professional Healthcare Provider
In conclusion, several diseases and conditions are related to abnormalities of plasma cells or their products. All these diseases can have varying symptoms, treatments, and prognoses. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. With proper care, many people with these conditions can manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life. Need more information, or want to know more about a specific plasma cell disorder? Start your search here: