Myelodysplastic Syndromes

1 What are Myelodysplastic Syndromes?

A group of disorders caused by dysfunctional or poor blood cells is called myelodysplastic syndromes.

When something goes wrong in your bone marrow which is the spongy material inside your bones where blood cells are made, myelodysplastic syndromes occurs.

Reducing and preventing complications of this disease is the focus of the treatment in this disease. In some cases, they use bone marrow transplant in treating this disease.

2 Symptoms

There are rare signs and symptoms for myelodysplastic syndromes in the early stages, it may cause:

  • shortness of breath,
  • fatigue,
  • easy or unusual bleeding and bruising,
  • unusual paleness or pallor due to anemia,
  • frequent injections,
  • pinpoint-sized red spots beneath your skin caused by bleeding or petechiae.

Visit your doctor it you are experiencing these signs and symptoms.

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3 Causes

Myelodysplastic syndromes are divided into two categories based on their causes:

  • myelodysplastic syndromes with no known cause also called de novo myelodysplastic syndromes can be easily treated,
  • myelodysplastic syndromes caused by chemicals and radiation that occurs when you are exposed to radiation used in cancer treatments or in chemicals which is called secondary myelodysplastic syndromes that are hard to treat.

When something happens to disrupt the orderly and controlled production of blood cells, myelodysplastic syndromes occurs. Instead of developing normally, they die in the bone marrow or just after they enter the bloodstream so people that have myelodysplastic syndromes have blood cells that are defective and immature. If the number of healthy blood cells is lesser than the number of immature and defective cells, it can lead to illnesses such as infections, excess bleeding and anemia.

According to the World Health Organization, myelodysplastic syndromes are divided into subtypes based on type of blood cells (red cells, white cells, platelets). These include: Refractory anemia with ringed sideroblasts that involves a low number of red blood cells which contain excess amounts of iron; refractory cytopenia with unilineage dysplasia that involves one blood cell type that is low and this will appear abnormal under the microscope; refractory anemia with excess blasts (types 1 and 2) that involves low count in red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets and will appear abnormal under the microscope; refractory cytopenia with multilineage dysplasia that involves two of the three types of blood cells are abnormal and less than 1 percent of the cells in the bloodstream are immature cells (blasts); myelodysplastic syndromes unclassified which is an uncommon syndrome that have reduced numbers in the three types of cells; people who have myelodysplastic syndromes associated with isolated del(5q) chromosome abnormality have low numbers of red blood cells with a specific mutation in their DNA.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes is done by performing several tests and procedures.

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms, consult your doctor. He may refer you to a hematologist that specializes in blood disorders.

Before the appointment, ask if there are restrictions you need to take. Bring a family member or a close friend that might be able to support you and help you remember details. Bring a notebook. In the notebook, write down the symptoms you are experiencing, the supplements, vitamins and medicines that you are taking. Write down the previous life changes and major stresses in your life. Some of the basic questions you can ask are:

  • Do I have myelodysplastic syndromes?
  • What type of myelodysplastic syndromes do I have?
  • Are there any tests I need to do?
  • What treatments are you going to recommend?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • Will I have leukemia?
  • Can any treatments cure myelodysplastic syndromes?
  • Are there side effects of the treatment?
  • What are the restrictions I have to do?
  • Do I have to see a specialist?
  • What websites do you recommend?
  • Should I have a follow-up visit?

Your doctor may ask you questions such as:

  • When did you first experience the symptoms?
  • Is it occasional or consistent?
  • How severe are they?

Your doctor may recommend bone marrow biopsy if there is an abnormal numbers of blood cells. Other tests and procedures he might recommend are:

  • blood test to count the number of blood cells and to examine your blood for unusual changes in the shape, appearance and size of peripheral blood smear;
  • removing bone marrow for testing, the doctor will aspirate a small amount of liquid bone marrow then the small piece of bone as well as the enclosed marrow is removed. They will examine it to look for abnormalities.

5 Treatment

To slow the progression of the myelodysplastic syndromes and to manage the symptoms are usually used the treatments such as:

  • medications that will increase the number of blood cells in your body,
  • blood transfusion to replace the platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells,
  • growth factors to increase red blood cells such as darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) or epoetin alfa (Epogen), but some people prevent infections by increasing their white blood cells,
  • medication that makes your blood cells to mature,
  • medications to reduce the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia and to improve quality of life such as azacitidine (Vidaza) and decitabine (Dacogen),
  • medications that suppress your immune system,
  • lenalidomide (Revlimid) for people who have a gene mutation called isolated del(5q) because it may reduce the need for blood transfusion,
  • bone marrow stem cell transplant to remove your defective blood cells and replaced it with healthy donated cells (allogeneic transplant). Only a few people are candidates for bone marrow stem cell transplant because reduced-intensity transplants carry risk of side effects.

6 Prevention

There is no way to prevent myelodysplastic syndromes.

Not smoking can lower the risk of myelodysplastic syndromes and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Avoid cancer causing industrial chemicals such as benzene.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the alternative remedies usedfor myelodysplastic syndromes include:

  • Chlorella,
  • Vitamin E,
  • Bee pollen,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Curcumin.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with myelodysplastic syndromes.

People with myelodysplastic syndromes are subject to recurrent and serious infections because they have low white blood cells count.

Follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of infections:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water especially before and after eating food,
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when there is no water,
  • meat should be cook well and avoid fruits and vegetables that you cannot peel,
  • avoid raw foods,
  • avoid people who are ill because your immune system is weak.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with myelodysplastic syndromes.

Factors that can affect your risk of myelodysplastic syndromes include:

  • age, adults that are over 60 years old;
  • treatment with radiation and chemotherapy which are commonly used to treat cancer because it is hard to treat,
  • exposure to certain chemicals that are used in pesticides, benzene which is an industrial chemical and tobacco,
  • exposure to heavy metals such as mercury and lead.

Complications of myelodysplastic syndromes are:

  • recurrent infections because you have a few white blood cells,
  • anemia because of few red blood cells that can make you feel tired,
  • cancer of the blood cells or leukemia,
  • bleeding that won’t stop because you lack platelets in your blood.
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