Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia is a result of a condition called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. The cause of the overproduction of the IgM antibody is unknown, but researchers believe it is made by lymphoma cells.
Overproduction of IgM causes the blood to become too thick. This is called hyperviscosity. It occasionally makes it harder for blood to flow through small blood vessels.
About 1,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia every year. Most people with this condition are over age 65, however, it may occur in younger people.
A physical examination may reveal a swollen spleen, liver, and lymph nodes. An eye exam may show enlarged veins in the retina or retinal bleeding (hemorrhages).
A CBC shows a low number of red blood cells and platelets. A blood chemistry shows evidence of kidney disease. A serum viscosity test can tell if the blood has become thick. Symptoms usually occur when the blood is four times thicker than normal.
A test called serum protein electrophoresis shows an increased amount of the IgM antibody. Levels seen in Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia are generally greater than 3 g/dL.
Bone lesions are very rare. If they are present, a bone marrow examination will show cells that resemble both lymphocytes and plasma cells.
Todd Gersten, M.D., Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.