Waldenström macroglobulinaemia (WM) happens when something goes wrong with the development of plasma cells.

Plasma cells are a type of B-lymphocyte white blood cell that helps fight infection.

WM is sometimes called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.

What are the symptoms of Waldenström macrogobulinaemia (WM)?

The most common symptoms are tiredness, weakness, unexplained weight loss, night sweats and persistent or frequent infections. If you have a tumour in your lymph nodes, spleen or other organs, you may also experience swellings in your neck, armpits and groin, bruising or bleeding and breathlessness. 

If you have WM your blood may thicken. If this happens, you may suffer from headaches, confusion, tiredness, weakness, blurred vision and kidney problems.

Tests and diagnosis of WM

If your doctor thinks you might have WM, they’ll carry out some tests to investigate. This will usually include a blood test to check your blood count, a bone marrow biopsy, scans and X-rays.

You may also need other tests to confirm the diagnosis and stage the WM (see how far it has progressed), such as tests to check your liver function and thickness of your blood.

Treatment for WM

If you don’t have many symptoms when you’re diagnosed, and the WM isn’t affecting your general health or wellbeing, you may not need treatment straight away. Instead, you’ll be put on something called ‘watch and wait’ and have regular check-ups every three to six months. 

If you do need treatment, it usually involves chemotherapy, steroids and sometimes targeted therapies or a stem cell transplant. If you blood becomes too thick, you may have a treatment known as a plasma exchange.

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