Myelodysplastic syndrome is a rare type of blood disorder for which your blasts (immature blood cells produced in your bone marrow) don’t mature into healthy red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. So, it may cause you to have low blood counts in any combination and too many dying or dead blasts mucking up your blood production process.
Under healthy conditions, blasts mature into either:
- red blood cells to carry oxygen
- white blood cells to fight infection
- platelets to help blood clot to stop bleeding
With myelodysplastic syndrome, once its progression causes the number of your healthy blood cells to come up short you can experience symptoms of anemia, recurrent infections and/or excessive bleeding.
Anemia results if your myelodysplastic syndrome causes a drop in the amount of your healthy red blood cells. Generally, anemia causes symptoms of:
Recurrent infections commonly result from neutropenia. And because myelodysplastic syndrome can cause neutropenia, an insufficiency in healthy white blood cells, repetitive infections occur. If your myelodysplastic syndrome causes a platelet deficit, then excessive bleeding, as evidenced by petechiae, nose bleeds and bleeding gums, and easy bruising are frequent symptoms.
Depending on the nature of your blasts problem, you may experience all symptoms related to anemia, recurrent infections and excessive bleeding or just one group of symptoms. And for some, myelodysplastic syndrome will progress into acute myeloid leukemia.
Couple of situations that increase your risk of developing myelodysplastic syndrome are:
- exposure to heavy metals ~ lead & mercury
- prior chemotherapy or radiation cancer treatments
- exposed to tobacco smoke, pesticides, radiation, industrial chemicals (benzene)
Myelodysplastic syndrome caused by these risks are referred to as secondary and are less likely to respond to treatment. And primary is used when no cause can be identified.
Because myelodysplastic syndrome isn’t just one disease, but a group of related diseases, treatment does vary. Essentially, treatment involves preventing low blood cell count symptoms. For instance, you might be given a blood transfusion to improve symptoms of anemia and excessive bleeding. And for recurrent infections, you might be given a general antibiotic whenever you have a fever.