What are myelodysplastic syndromes?
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases that is characterized when the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells.
Although children and young adults sometimes have myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) but most of the people with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are over 60 years old.
What is the cause of Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)?
Healthy bone marrow makes stem cells, which develop into 3 types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) can happen when the stem cells do not develop properly into mature blood cells. Instead the bone marrow makes too many immature blood cells called blasts. The blasts do not mature and cannot work properly as blood cells. They also collect in the bone marrow and leave less room for healthy blood cells.
The cause of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is still not known. It can be caused by exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and the chemical benzene, which is found in unleaded gasoline.
How is myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history to examine you. As other problems can too cause some of the same symptoms, diagnosis can be made only after careful tests of the blood and bone marrow. Tests may include:
How long do the effects last?
- Blood tests to count the different types of blood cells
- Tests of a sample of bone marrow taken from your breastbone or hipbone. First you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. A needle is then passed through your skin into the bone marrow. Using a syringe, your doctor takes a tiny sample of fluid and tissue to examine under a microscope. This procedure is called a bone marrow biopsy.
People with mild forms of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) may live for several years with few problems. People with a more severe form of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) may not live long after developing the disease.
Sometimes, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) can develop into a form of leukemia, most often acute myelogenous leukemia.
Currently, only stem cell transplants can cure myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Other types of treatment may help you live longer and decrease the symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)?
The most common symptoms of myelodysplastic syndromes are:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising and bleeding
How are myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) treated?
There are many ways to treat myelodysplasia:
- Blood transfusions to replace the cells which the bone marrow is not making
- Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs) to stop the growth of immature blood cells
- Transplant of healthy stem cells from a donor after you have chemotherapy
Treatment depends upon the severity of the disease, your age, and your overall health. Older adults who have other health problems may choose supportive care. Supportive care does not cure myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
Supportive care involves transfusions of red blood cells or platelets, and taking antibiotics, vitamins, and other medicines to ease the symptoms.