Multiple myeloma, which is also known as myeloma or Kahler’s disease, is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. In this condition, abnormal plasma cells multiply in the bone marrow, causing destructive bone lesions, and producing an abnormal protein known as monoclonal antibody or M protein. Normal plasma cells produce different antibodies against infections to which the body is exposed. Anemia, fatigue, weight loss and weakness, unexplained fever, bleeding, bone pain and bone tenderness, hypercalcemia, fractures, kidney disease, nerve pains, enlarged tongue, skin lesions, and an increased susceptibility to infections, are the common symptom of this condition.
While the exact cause of multiple myeloma remains unknown, exposure to chemicals, radiation, and viruses; immune disorders; and a family or genetic history, may cause or trigger the disease. This condition is usually seen in middle and old age, and can be diagnosed with a detailed medical history, clinical examination, along with multiple blood and urine tests, x-ray and bone marrow tests.
With treatment, this condition has a median survival of about three years; however, there may be wide variations, depending upon the disease severity, immune status of the patient, and the response to treatment. Although there is presently no cure for this disease, prolonged remission can be achieved using a combination of treatments which include immune-modulators, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell transplant, blood transfusions, and plasmapheresis. Prognosis for the disease can be estimated by grading it, usually in 3 stages, based upon the severity at diagnosis.
In this scenario, Ayurvedic herbal treatment can be used concurrently with modern treatment in order to bring about a complete remission of the disease and prevent a relapse. Herbal medicines are given to neutralize and remove the malignant plasma cells and help the bone marrow produce normal blood precursors. The deposition of abnormal protein causes damage in various organs; kidney damage can be reversed completely if treated with herbs at early detection; nerve damage and neuropathy has to be treated with herbal medicines which act on the central nervous system as well as on peripheral nerve endings; anemia, abnormal bleeding, and skin rashes need to be treated with herbs which act on the blood tissue.
Other herbs are added to help treat bone pain, reduce crowding of plasma cells in bone, prevent fractures, and bring about healing of bone lesions. Severe bone pain is a typical feature of advanced disease and highly aggressive treatment is required in order to treat this. Sometimes, a special Ayurvedic Panchkarma procedure known as Tikta-Ksheer basti is needed; this involves several courses of enemas of medicated oils and medicated milk to help ease off bone lesions.
Immune modulation is an important part of treatment, and Ayurvedic herbo-mineral drugs, known as Rasayanas, are used for this purpose, in order to reverse most of the symptoms and signs of this condition on a long term basis. A multi-faceted Rasayana is chosen which can regulate blood and bone marrow metabolism, modulate immunity, reverse weakness and weight loss, and also treat anemia and low grade fever. Care is taken to ensure that these medicines are well tolerated by the patient and do not have any adverse effects on important body organs like the kidneys, liver and heart.
After achieving remission, it is important to gradually taper off the treatment so as to prevent a relapse, while monitoring with periodical blood and urine tests. With the concurrent use of modern and Ayurvedic treatment, most patients having multiple myeloma can achieve remission within 12 to 18 months; low dose medications and monitoring need to be continued for at least 5 years in order to ensure there is no relapse.
Ayurvedic herbal treatment can thus be judiciously used in combination with modern treatment to successfully manage and treat multiple myeloma.