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Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of disorders caused by poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells. Myelodysplastic syndromes occur when something goes wrong in your bone marrow — the spongy material inside your bones where blood cells are made. There is no cure for myelodysplastic syndromes. Treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes usually focuses on reducing or preventing complications of the disease and of treatments. In certain cases, myelodysplastic syndromes are treated with a bone marrow transplant, which may help prolong life.
Complications of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
Complications of myelodysplastic syndromes include:
Causes of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
Myelodysplastic syndromes occur when something happens to disrupt the orderly and controlled production of blood cells. People with myelodysplastic syndromes have blood cells that are immature and defective, and instead of developing normally, they die in the bone marrow or just after entering your bloodstream. Over time, the number of immature, defective cells begins to surpass that of healthy blood cells, leading to problems such as anemia, infections and excess bleeding.
Doctors divide myelodysplastic syndromes into two categories based on their cause:
Signs & Symptoms of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
Myelodysplastic syndromes rarely cause signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease. In time, myelodysplastic syndromes may cause:
Diagnosis of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
If abnormal numbers of blood cells have been detected in your blood, your doctor may begin with tests and procedures to rule out diseases and conditions other than myelodysplastic syndromes that have similar signs and symptoms.
In addition, your doctor may recommend tests and procedures used to diagnose myelodysplastic syndromes, such as:
Treatments of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
No definitive cure or treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes exists. Instead, most people receive supportive care to help manage symptoms such as fatigue and to prevent bleeding and infections.
Blood transfusions can be used to replace red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets in people with myelodysplastic syndromes.
Medications used to increase the number of healthy blood cells your body produces include:
Bone marrow stem cell transplant
During a bone marrow stem cell transplant, your defective blood cells are destroyed using powerful chemotherapy drugs. Then the abnormal bone marrow stem cells are replaced with healthy, donated cells (allogeneic transplant). Unfortunately, few people are candidates for this procedure because of the high risks involved in transplanting in older adults — those most likely to have myelodysplastic syndromes. Even among young, relatively healthy people, the number of transplant-related complications is high.
When to seek Medical Advice
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
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