Myelodysplastic syndromes – Symptoms, causes, and management options
Myelodysplastic syndromes – Symptoms, causes, and management options

Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of disorders that result in the body’s inability to produce healthy blood cells. Known to be a rare type of cancer, the syndromes primarily affect the elderly, especially those over the age of 65. However, it can affect the younger population as well. The most common and early symptoms are fatigue and shortness of breath. Here are a few signs and available treatments for myelodysplastic syndromes.

Symptoms of myelodysplastic syndromes
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) can develop without any symptoms in the early stages. They can be detected by general blood tests. The most common symptom is anemia. Patients may also experience other symptoms like:

  • Breathing problems
  • Constant fatigue despite adequate rest
  • Pallid skin
  • Excessive bruising and bleeding
  • Petechiae, which are extremely small spots of bleeding under the skin
  • Fever and frequent infections

One should consult a doctor if any of these symptoms persist for a long time. This will help identify the underlying cause and help a person get the best treatment available.

The causes of MDS
MDS develops due to problems in the process of blood cell formation. When understanding the cause of MDS, one should also be aware about the role of the bone marrow. A soft, spongy tissue, the bone marrow creates new blood cells that mature after some time. When a person suffers from MDS, the normal development of blood cells does not occur. Instead, the blood cells die in the bone marrow or shortly after entering the bloodstream. After a certain period, the body then has a large number of defective blood cells than healthy cells, which leads to a number of health issues.

Treatments for MDS
For MDS patients, the primary aim of treatment is restoring the blood count to healthy levels. Treatment can also involve the use of various remedies. The use of multiple treatment options is known as systemic therapy. This therapy works in such a way that unhealthy cells are targeted throughout the body. Such therapies are typically prescribed by an oncologist or a hematologist. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are two types of systemic therapies used to treat MDS.

Chemotherapy is a method of destroying damaged cells by preventing them from dividing and developing. A chemotherapy schedule typically consists of a set number of cycles administered over a set period. People with high-risk MDS subtypes may benefit from conventional chemotherapy. This type of therapy can cause exhaustion, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and diarrhea, depending on the individual and the dose used. These side effects are known to subside once the treatment is over.

Biologic therapy, also known as immunotherapy, aims to strengthen the body’s natural defense mechanisms to combat MDS. It uses chemicals created artificially in a lab, or naturally by the body, to restore or enhance immune system function. Although immunotherapy is not frequently used in MDS patients, it might be an option for some. It is also known to have various side effects. Before beginning any treatment, it is critical to consult a healthcare worker and discuss potential side effects to avoid further complications.