Monoclonal gammopathies are conditions in which abnormal proteins are found in the blood. These proteins grow from a small number of plasma cells in the bone marrow. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell. Their main job is to fight off infection.
The most common condition linked with these abnormal proteins is monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). It is not cancer. But people with MGUS have a greater risk of getting serious diseases of the bone marrow and blood.
The exact cause of MGUS is not known. Infection, immune system problems, and the environment may play a role. But experts have not found a clear link yet. Experts do know that the abnormal proteins are not caused by a certain diet or from eating dietary proteins.
The chance of getting MGUS grows with age, but it is not common. There is no risk of monoclonal gammopathies in first-degree family members. This means screening of siblings and children is not needed.
MGUS causes no symptoms. In fact, monoclonal protein in the blood is often found by accident when doing other routine blood work.
Most people who have abnormal proteins in their blood will never get worse. But in some cases, these illnesses can develop:
Symptoms of monoclonal gammopathies vary among these conditions, but can include:
Once abnormal proteins are found in the blood, more testing is needed. A blood screening and sometimes a urine screening is recommended. This is often done with a lab test called electrophoresis. This test separates proteins based on their size and other factors. Depending on the results of those tests, more testing may be done.
Because MGUS is not harmful, it doesn’t need to be treated. A diagnosis of MGUS without any other symptoms usually does not call for more testing. But because MGUS may lead to a more serious condition, you’ll need checkups throughout your life. This usually includes regular physical exams and blood work. This will help find problems as early as possible.
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