Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a rare group of diseases that occur when the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. There is an overproduction of abnormal, immature, or dysfunctional blood cells, which leads to a lack of normal, healthy blood cells. As a result, the body has a harder time fighting infection and is more susceptible to bruising or bleeding. Though it can occur at any age, MDS is far more likely to show up in adults over the age of 60 years.
Signs and symptoms may vary based on the type and severity of the disease, as well as the type of blood cell affected. However, MDS may cause one or more of the following:
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruiseability or bleeding
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
Myelodysplastic syndrome is typically divided into two categories: syndromes with no apparent cause and syndromes caused by drugs or radiation used to treat previous cancer treatments or environmental chemical or radiation exposure. Potential causes may include tobacco use, exposure to industrial chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals, including lead and mercury. Cases of MDS range from mild to severe, therefore treatments may vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. Physicians typically recommend supportive care to help manage symptoms and prevent further infections.
Treatment options for MDS may also include one or more of the following:
- Supportive therapy
- Growth factors
- Stem cell transplant