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Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a condition in which an abnormal protein (monoclonal protein, or M protein) is in the blood. M protein is produced by plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance usually causes no problems. Sometimes, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance is either associated with another disease or can progress over years to other disorders, including some forms of blood cancer.

If you have monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, you'll usually have periodic checkups to monitor your level of M protein. If there's no increase, monoclonal gammopathy doesn't require treatment.

With close monitoring, if monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance does progress, you'll get earlier treatment.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance rarely causes signs or symptoms. The condition is usually detected by chance when you have a routine blood test for another problem. However, some people may experience nerve problems, such as numbness or tingling, associated with the abnormal protein.

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance occurs when plasma cells in your bone marrow produce an abnormal protein called monoclonal protein (M protein). Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell. They are found in your bone marrow. Plasma cells produce some of the antibodies that help your body fight infection.

In the majority of people with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, the protein isn't harmful. But when too much M protein accumulates, it crowds out healthy cells in your bone marrow and can damage other tissues in your body.

Genetic changes appear to play a role in monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, as do environmental triggers.

Factors that increase your risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance include:

  • Your age. The risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance increases as you get older. The highest incidence is among adults age 85 and older.
  • Your race. Blacks are more likely to experience this condition than are whites.
  • Your sex. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance is more common in men than it is in women.
  • A family history. If other people in your family have monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, your risk of developing the disorder may be higher.

Some people with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance develop a more serious condition, such as multiple myeloma or other cancers or blood disorders.

Doctors can't definitively predict who will go on to develop a more serious condition, but they can determine who has the greatest risk. Your doctor takes into account several factors when determining your risk, including:

  • The amount of M protein in your blood
  • The type of M protein
  • The amount of another small protein (free light chain) in your blood

Your risk of developing a more serious condition increases the longer you've had monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. Also, the more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing a more serious condition.

Other complications associated with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance include fractures and blood clots.

Right now, the cause of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance is unknown, so there is no way to prevent monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance and no way to stop it from progressing to a more serious condition.

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