What are Monoclonal Gammopathies?
If patient has abnormal proteins detected in his/her blood, then the patient has a group of conditions known as monoclonal gammopathies. In monoclonal gammopathies, there is growth of these abnormal proteins from a small number of plasma cells, which are a form of white blood cells in the bone marrow. The primary function of the plasma cells is fighting infection.
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is the commonest condition associated with these abnormal proteins. MGUS is not a malignant condition; however, patients suffering from MGUS are at an increased risk for developing serious diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
Causes of Monoclonal Gammopathies
The exact cause of monoclonal gammopathies is not clear. Some of the causes which play a role in this condition include: immune system problems, infection, and environment. It is known for sure that consumption of any type of dietary proteins or eating a certain type of diet DOES NOT CAUSE the development of these abnormal proteins.
Risk Factors for Monoclonal Gammopathies
As a person ages, so does the risk of getting Monoclonal Gammopathies. First-degree family members do not have a risk of monoclonal gammopathies and no screening is required for children and siblings.
Symptoms of Monoclonal Gammopathies
Monoclonal Gammopathies do not cause any symptoms. In fact, the monoclonal protein in this condition is detected by accident while doing other blood work. Majority of the patients with Monoclonal Gammopathies will remain the same and do not get worse. However, some patients can develop these illnesses: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, plasma cell leukemia, solitary plasmacytoma, primary amyloidosis and Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia.
Patients with these conditions will have different types of symptoms of monoclonal gammopathies and they include:
- Tiredness or fatigue.
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
- Pain in the soft tissues or bones.
- Recurrent infections.
- Increased bruising.
- Weight loss.
- Vision problems.
- Mental changes.
Diagnosis of Monoclonal Gammopathies
After the abnormal proteins have been detected in the blood, patient needs additional testing, which includes blood screening and in some cases a urine screening. Electrophoresis is the lab technique which is utilized for these testing. In this test, the proteins are separated based on their size and other features. Further testing may be needed depending on the results of the above tests.
Treatment of Monoclonal Gammopathies
As monoclonal gammopathies is not a harmful condition, patient often does not need any treatment. After the patient has been diagnosed with monoclonal gammopathy and does not have any symptoms then treatment is not usually required. As monoclonal gammopathies can lead to more serious conditions of blood and bone marrow, patient needs to undergo regular checkups throughout his/her life to detect serious problems as early as possible.
Important Facts about Monoclonal Gammopathies
- Monoclonal gammopathies are conditions where the patient has abnormal proteins in his/her blood.
- MGUS is the common condition associated with these abnormal proteins and it has no symptoms.
- Electrophoresis is a lab test which is done to make diagnosis.
- In some cases, monoclonal gammopathies can lead to more serious medical conditions, patient needs regular checkups throughout his/her life.
- Treatment is not needed if the patient has no symptoms of monoclonal gammopathies, as this is not a harmful condition.
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