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Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)

Taken from AA&MDSIF

MDS is a group of disorders where your bone marrow does not work well, and the blood-forming stem cells in your bone marrow fail to make enough healthy blood cells. People with MDS can lack the right amount of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (the small cells that help blood to clot).

The disease happens because the bone marrow cells do not develop into mature blood cells. Instead, these blood cells stay within the bone marrow in an immature state. The symptoms and the course of MDS may vary greatly from person to person. These differences depend on which blood cells are affected.


All people with MDS have two things in common:

· They have a low blood cell count for at least 1 blood cell type. This is called cytopenia.

· Their bone marrow and blood contain blood cells with an abnormal shape, size, or look.

What does the term "myelodysplastic" actually mean?
Myelo = blood cells
Dysplastic = abnormal development or growth
So, when you have myelodysplastic syndrome, this means that your blood cells have an unusual shape and that they have abnormal growth.

· Most of the time, doctors don't know the exact cause of MDS. These cases are called de novo MDS. We do know that certain lifestyle factors are linked to MDS.
You are more likely to develop MDS if you have:
Been a smoker

· Been heavily exposed to certain chemicals, such as benzene

· Had chemotherapy or radiation treatments. These can cause treatment-related or secondary MDS. Treatment-related MDS is often severe and can be more difficult to treat than de novo MDS.


MDS cannot be passed down through the genes from parent to child and it cannot be passed through germs from person to person.


The symptoms of MDS may vary greatly from person to person. The symptoms depend on what blood cells are affected and how low the blood counts have fallen. A person with MDS can have any of the following:

· Low Red Blood Cell Count: A low red blood cell count is called anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. A low red blood cell count causes fatigue and tiredness.

· Low White Blood Cell Count: A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia. White blood cells fight infections in the body by attacking and killing bacteria and viruses. A low white blood cell count can increase the risk for infections.

· Low Platelet Count: A low platelet count is called thrombocytopenia. Platelets help blood to clot and stop bleeding. A low platelet count can lead to bleeding problems and cause you to bruise easily.


If your MDS is in its early stages and your blood counts are not too low yet, you may have only mild symptoms. If your blood counts are very low, you will have more symptoms.


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