What is MDS?
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases that affect the blood and
bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of the bones
that makes blood cells. In people with MDS, the bone marrow makes abnormal cells
and does not make enough healthy blood cells.
People living with MDS typically have low blood cell counts. This means their bone
marrow makes abnormally low levels of red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells
(WBCs), and/or platelets. These low levels of blood cells are called cytopenias.
- Low RBC levels—anemia—May make you feel tired, weak, or short of breath
- Low WBC levels—neutropenia—May increase your risk for infections and
cause fever or mouth sores
- Low platelet levels—thrombocytopenia—May cause you to bruise more easily,
or bleed for no reason (a nosebleed or bleeding gums from teeth brushing)
MDS can cause other health problems. It is important to discuss the risks of these
problems with your doctor or nurse. Report bleeding and infections to them right
away. You should also ask your doctor if you have a risk of developing a cancer
of the blood and bone marrow called leukemia.
At some point, most patients with MDS will receive supportive care. Supportive care
does not change the progression of MDS, but is used to reduce some of the signs
or symptoms. One of the most common examples of supportive care is a blood transfusion.
This process adds parts of blood or whole blood into the bloodstream.
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