What is myelodysplasia, aka myelodysplastic syndrome? Essentially its a disorder of your bone marrow that causes defective blood cells to be produced. Eventually, the number of functional blood cells becomes insufficient to sustain good health, resulting in anemia, recurrent infection and excessive bleeding symptoms. This health condition most often affects older male adults.
Your bone marrow manufactures three types of blood cells; red, white and platelets. With myelodysplasia, the creation of any or all of these cell types can end up abnormal. As such, this blood problem is broken into subgroups generally differentiated by low number of normal cell type (e.g. anemia, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia), appearance and nature of defect (e.g. red blood cells contain excess iron, excessive blasts in bloodstream).
Myelodysplastic syndrome occurs because something has gone askew with the construction of blood cells in your bone marrow. Chemical and radiation are two exposures that have been found to cause your blood production system to go off course. As such, having chemotherapy or radiation cancer treatment increases your risk of myelodysplasia. Other risk sources include:
In some cases, the cause of this syndrome is not known.
During the initial phase of abnormal blood cell being sent out you probably won’t notice any problems. However, eventually myelodysplastic syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms, for instance:
Your symptoms will vary based on your particular combination of low blood counts. So for example, a reduced number of red blood cells causes anemia symptoms, not enough white blood cells will cause infection related symptoms and lacking in sufficient platelets can lead to bleeding symptoms. And leukemia is a potential complication of myelodysplasia as well.
The most effective and life prolonging form of treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome is stem cell transplant, yet bone marrow transplantation is not viable for everyone. In the alternative, treatment focuses on bringing up blood cell counts and managing anemia, bleeding and infection symptoms. Depending on your situation, some of your supportive care options involve:
- blood transfusions
- growth factors ~ erythropoietin, darbepoietin
- drugs that stimulate blood cell maturity ~ azacitidine, decitabine
One of the primary actions you can take in an effort to help prevent the development of this incurable health condition is to avoid the controllable risk factors that are known to cause myelodysplasia. Succinctly stated, take the necessary steps to keep your dwelling environment free of tobacco smoke, pesticides and other chemical exposures.