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Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 by

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia refers to a condition where the body produces too much of an antibody called immunoglobulin M (IgM). The condition is considered a type of cancer.

The immune system produces cells that protect the body against infection, like B lymphocytes/B cells. B cells are made in the bone marrow and they travel to and mature in the lymph nodes and spleen. These cells can transform into plasma cells that release IgM. The body relies on antibodies to fight off invading diseases.

Sometimes, the body may start producing too much IgM. This causes hyperviscosity, or the blood becomes thicker than normal. Hyperviscosity makes it difficult for all of the organs and tissues to function properly.

A rare type of cancer, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is also a non-Hodgkin lymphoma that grows slowly. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), at least 1,100 to 1,500 cases of the condition are diagnosed yearly in the U. S.

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is also called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, primary macroglobulinemia, and Waldenstrom’s disease.

Known symptoms of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

In some cases, individuals with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia do not experience any symptoms.

Other patients with the condition can have signs that usually include:

  • Abdominal swelling and diarrhea
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose
  • Bruises
  • Changes in the color of the fingertips (when exposed to cold temperatures)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes or spleen
  • Fatigue
  • Infections
  • Numbness, weakness, or other nervous system problems and pain in the hands or feet/peripheral neuropathy
  • Raised pink or flesh-colored lesions on the skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness and shortness of breath

If a patient’s IgM level is severely high, they may experience additional symptoms that occur because of hyperviscosity. These may include:

  • Changes in mental status
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems (like blurry vision or “double” vision)

Risk factors for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may include:

  • Age – The risk of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia increases with age. It often occurs among individuals older than 60.
  • Gender – Men are more likely to develop the condition than women.
  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) – MGUS is a buildup of monoclonal antibodies produced by abnormal plasma cells. While MGUS isn’t usually linked to health problems, the abnormal antibody may sometimes bind to nerves, which can result in muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling. Sometimes, the monoclonal antibody can cause a decrease in kidney function. At least 20 percent of patients with MGUS will develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma or multiple myeloma within 20 years.
  • Race – Caucasians are more likely to develop the condition than black people.

Body systems harmed by Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may cause the following complications:

  • Altered mentation/mental facility
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Visual impairment

Food items or nutrients that may prevent Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

The following dietary changes can help prevent Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia or address its signs:

  • Following a healthy diet – Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Chose foods low in fat and minimize your intake of red meat.
  • Staying hydrated – Drinking lots of water and other caffeine-free, non-carbonated, and non-alcoholic liquids daily.

Treatments, management plans for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

There is no cure for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia and treatment aims to control its symptoms.

Treatment for the condition often depends on the severity of a patient’s symptoms. A patient doesn’t need any treatment until they develop symptoms, which can take several years.

Treatment for the condition may include:

  • Biotherapy/biological therapy -This strengthens the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. It is often combined with chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy – This treatment involves medicine that destroys cells in the body that grow quickly. Chemotherapy for the disease targets the abnormal cells that produce excess IgM.
  • Plasmapheresis/plasma exchange – This is a procedure that removes excess IgM in the plasma from the blood via a machine. The remaining plasma is combined with donor plasma and returned to the body.
  • Surgery – A healthcare professional may recommend a splenectomy or surgery for the removal of the spleen. While the procedure can minimize or eliminate a patient’s symptoms for several years, they can still return after surgery.

Where to learn more


Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia refers to a condition where the body produces too much of an antibody called immunoglobulin M (IgM). The condition is considered a type of cancer.

Patients with the condition can have signs that usually include bruises, fatigue, and infections.

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia may cause complications like altered mentation/mental facility, congestive heart failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and visual impairment.

Dietary changes like following a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help prevent Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia or address its signs.

There is no cure for Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia and treatment aims to control its symptoms. Treatment for the condition may include biotherapy/biological therapy, chemotherapy, plasmapheresis, or surgery.

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