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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Other Names for this Disease
  • Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma
  • Macroglobulinemia of Waldenstrom
  • Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia
  • Waldenstrom's syndrome
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What is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?

How might Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia be treated?

What is Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia?

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a chronic, slow-growing lymphoproliferative disorder.[1] It usually affects older adults and is primarily found in the bone marrow, although lymph nodes and the spleen may be involved. Affected individuals have a high level of an antibody called immunoglobulin M (IgM) in their blood, which can cause thickening of the blood (hyperviscosity).[2] Although some individuals initially do not have symptoms and are diagnosed from routine blood work, common symptoms may include weakness, appetite loss and weight loss. Other symptoms may include peripheral neuropathy, fever, Raynaud's phenomenon, and mental status changes.[1] Hyperviscosity of the blood may cause nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness, and blurring or loss of vision.[2] The cause of the condition is not known but environmental, genetic, and viral factors have been suggested. There have been some reports of familial cases suggesting a genetic predisposition. Treatment is often reserved for those with symptoms and may include various medications including corticosteroids, alkylating agents, biologic response modifiers and purine analogues.[1]
Last updated: 10/1/2013

How might Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia be treated?

For individuals who do not have any symptoms, doctors may decide to "watch and wait" and not treat the disease right away. This can last many years for some individuals. For individuals requiring treatment, the type and severity of symptoms present, aggressiveness of the disease, and age all play a role in the type of therapy chosen.[2][1]

Some affected individuals have a procedure called plasmapheresis, to reverse or prevent the symptoms associated with the thickening of the blood (hyperviscosity). This involves removing the blood, passing it through a machine that removes the part of the blood with the IgM antibody, and returning the blood to the body. This may be combined with other treatments such as various types of chemotherapy. Many different drugs can be used to manage this condition, both alone and/or in various combinations.

For many individuals, there is a delayed response to treatment and the best response sometimes occurs several months after the treatment ends. Although the condition is not curable, many individuals do have a long-term response to treatment. Those who relapse after treatment or do not respond to initial treatment may consider secondary therapies. There are also several new drugs and drug combinations that are being studied in clinical trials.[2]

More detailed information about the specific medications used to treat Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia can be viewed on Medscape Reference's Web site.
Last updated: 10/1/2013

  1. Karen Seiter. Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia. Medscape Reference. January 31, 2012; Accessed 10/1/2013.
  2. Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia. Lymphoma Research Foundation. 2012; Accessed 10/1/2013.