Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of disorders that occur when there is a disruption in the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells. It is a rare condition that most often affects older adults. In some cases, there is a chance that MDS could eventually progress to leukemia.
For that reason, it is sometimes called preleukemia. Some forms of the disorder have no obvious cause, while others appear as a response to chemical exposure or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In addition, subjection to heavy metals increases the risk of experiencing MDS.
There are numerous forms of the disorder, and classification depends on what blood cells are affected and exactly how they are changed. Medical professionals will use a variety of tests to determine the exact type, including patient history, physical exams, complete blood count, cytogenic analysis, peripheral blood smear, bone marrow biopsy, and blood chemistry studies.
During the early stages of the disease, some patients experience no symptoms. MDS is often discovered through routine blood tests that show a reduced blood cell count. Symptoms depend on which blood cell is being produced improperly.
Of the various treatment options available, standard therapies generally include those that slow the progression of the disease and supportive care with antibiotics for infection, agents that increase red blood cell count, or transfusion. Depending on the type of MDS, a patient may also require other medications or stem cell transplantation.
Some forms of the condition have no standard treatment, so patients may have to try various options to find what works. If everything else fails, they may benefit from taking part in clinical trials.