Myelodysplastic Syndrome

The blood disorder Myelodysplastic syndrome occurs mostly in those who are over age 50. Individuals who have myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) have bone marrow that does not function normally and as a result they do not have enough normal blood cells for the normal functioning of the body.

This lack of normal blood cells causes the symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath because of a lack of normal red blood cells (RBCs), and frequent infections due to a lack of normal white blood cells (WBCs). The lack of normal platelet cells will lead to excessive bleeding and bruising.

Like most blood disorders, individuals can have a mild, moderate or severe case of myelodysplastic syndrome.

Myelodysplastic Syndrome Diagnosis

A person may seek a diagnosis after experiencing symptoms especially if those symptoms affect the quality of life. Fatigue and shortness of breath and frequent infections can have an impact on your ability to function at work or at home.

The diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome is usually arrived at by performing a complete blood count and also a blood smear, a laboratory test to examine the types of blood cells in the sample and the number of cells.

The blood sample should show a cross section of all the blood cells including white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. If it is desired to look at the chromosomes a special test called cytogenetics is conducted.

You can classify myelodysplastic syndrome in two ways, the FAB (French American British) system and the World Health Organization (WHO) which has developed two main subgroups called chronic and nonprogressive anemia, and progressive and symptomatic blood cell deficiencies.

If after conducting tests the individual is discovered to have 20% or more of bone marrow is made up of leukemic blast cells, the individual has acute myelogenous leukemia, which is a blood cancer.


Treatment options are many and will depend on the symptoms, the severity of the disease and the presense of other medical conditions.

The patient must be stable before treatment can begin. If the patient is suffering from anemia, blood transfusions may be necessary. Drugs can be given to stimulate blood cell development. Common drugs used are epogen or procrit.

Granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF) can also be given along with erythropoietin. Other medications that are sometimes given to treat MDS include Dacogen, Vidaza, and Revlimid. Chemotherapy may be necessary if severe myelodysplastic develops.

If someone has severe myelodysplastic syndrome, a stem cell transplant may be considered. This stem cell transplant will put in healthy bone marrow cells that can then produce more normal blood cells within the marrow.

Stem cell transplant is not without risks and must be carefully considered risks against benefits. Your doctor can explain these risks and benefits when discussing your treatment plan.