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Skin Conditions Associated with Multiple Myeloma

by Gauri Kolhe

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer that quickly develops in the body’s plasma cells. The role of healthy plasma cells is to create antibodies which help you in fighting off infections.

These antibodies first recognize the infection and then eliminate it from your body. If you have Multiple Myeloma, then instead of creating useful antibodies, the body creates cancerous plasma cells that get collected in the bone marrow.

The disease has a set of symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, fatigue, multiple infections, and numbness in your legs. While Multiple Myeloma does not directly attack the skin, it creates other problems which affect the skin. Problems like calcium elevation, kidney failure, and anaemia can cause different skin issues in the patients.

Skin problems such as sore spots, rashes, and bumps can be caused by the accumulation of plasma cells in your skin or abnormal M protein developed by the cancerous cells. If Myeloma patients are not getting skin issues because of these problems, it can also be a side effect of the medication. It is extremely rare for Myeloma to attack the skin directly.

Numerous skin problems can develop when you have Myeloma, which is why it is important to classify the problem and its cause. This way, people can understand their skin problems and treat them accordingly.

Skin conditions caused by Multiple Myeloma

Leukocytoclastic vasculitis: Leukocytoclastic vasculitis happens when your white blood cells break down. This process causes inflammation in the small blood vessels. In this case, numerous red or purple-coloured lesions will appear on your skin.

Autoimmune bullous disease: An autoimmune bullous disease is a group of autoimmune reactions to Myeloma in the body. It is generally the first sign of Myeloma.

In this condition, blisters will start to develop in your body. Many people take blisters as a common skin condition which disappears after some time. However, in such rare cases, it is an initial warning from the body.

Pyoderma gangrenosum: This condition leads to painful ulcers on the legs. An abnormal immune reaction to cancer causes this condition. Pyoderma gangrenosum usually develops rapidly if the Myeloma is left untreated.

Bruising: Myeloma attacks the platelets of the body. A normal platelet count is necessary because it helps the blood clot in case of an injury. That is why bruising or uncontrollable bleeding is a sign of Myeloma.

Cryoglobulinemia: Myeloma can produce cryoglobulin, proteins that form a cluster below normal body temperature. This phenomenon causes the healthy tissues to die, and necrotic ulcers develop.

AL amyloidosis: AL amyloidosis is a medical condition where abnormal proteins called light chains develop in critical tissues such as your heart, kidneys, and skin. If you have Myeloma, then these light chains are produced by the cancerous plasma cells.

The tissues affected by these abnormal proteins thicken and cannot function properly. If the skin is affected by this condition, patients may get extreme swelling, purple colour marks on the skin, bleeding blisters, and bruising.

Skin Cancer: Being affected by Myeloma means that your immune function is not functioning properly, which increases the chances of your body developing secondary cancer.

Yes, developing skin cancer is a risk if you have Myeloma. A 2016 study discovered that people with Myeloma developed skin cancer at a rate of 26.8%, while those without Myeloma developed skin cancer at a rate of 16.1%.  

Medicines that can cause side effects

Doctors need to catch the onset of Multiple Myeloma early in patients. This way, they can treat the patients effectively. However, some medicines can cause skin problems. If you are having skin issues, the cause may be the medication itself.

To figure this out, you will have to consult with your Oncologist. Medications like Velcade and Lenalidomide can cause skin problems in some patients. Multiple Myeloma patients must know whether their skin issues are caused by their medication or another complicated condition.

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