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Macroglobulinemia of Waldenstrom
Alternative namesWaldenstrom's macroglobulinemia; Macroglobulinemia - primary
DefinitionMacroglobulinemia of Waldenstrom is a cancer of the B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) which causes overproduction of monoclonal macroglobulin (IgM antibody ).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of this disease is unknown. It is characterized by overproduction of IgM, which causes the blood to become too thick (hyperviscosity).
This hyperviscosity interferes with blood flow through small blood vessels, which leads to many of the symptoms of the disease. The disease occurs in 5 out of 100,000 people over 50 years old.
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
Signs and testsA physical examination may reveal enlarged spleen , liver, and lymph nodes. A retinal eye examination (examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope) may reveal enlarged (engorged) retinal veins or retinal bleeding (hemorrhages).
This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
Apheresis (in this case, it is called plasmapheresis or plasma exchange) is a procedure for removing unwanted substances from the blood. In macroglobulinemia, it is used to control the symptoms caused by hyperviscosity by removing or reducing the high concentration of IgM.
Blood is withdrawn from the person in the same way as for a blood donation, and the blood is passed through a cell separator that removes the plasma (the fluid portion, which contains the antibodies ).
The formed elements (blood cells) are reconstituted with a plasma substitute or with donated plasma. The reconstituted blood is then returned to the body as in a blood transfusion. This is an acute procedure designed to quickly control symptoms.
Expectations (prognosis)The median (average) survival is about 5 years. In some people, the disorder may be chronic with few symptoms and slow progression.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms of this disorder develop.
Update Date: 8/23/2002Scott Howard, M.D., M.S., Memphis, TN. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT