Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a rare group of blood disorders that occur as a result of improper development of blood cells within the bone marrow.
About 10,000 to 15,000 people are diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes in the United States each year. Although MDS can affect people of any age, more than 80% of cases are in people over age 60. MDS is more common in men than in women.
General symptoms associated with MDS include fatigue, dizziness, weakness, bruising, bleeding, frequent infections, and headaches. In some cases, MDS may progress to life-threatening failure of the bone marrow or develop into an acute leukemia. The exact cause of MDS is unknown. There are no certain environmental risk factors.
Causes of MDS
In MDS, the bone marrow does not make enough normal blood cells for the body. One, two or all three types of blood cells — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets — may be affected. The marrow may also make immature cells called blasts. Blasts normally develop into red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. In MDS, the blasts are abnormal and do not develop or function normally.
Most often the cause of the changes to the bone marrow is unknown. This is called de novo MDS. In a small number of people, MDS might be linked to heavy exposure to some chemicals, such as certain solvents, or to radiation. MDS can also be caused by treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for other diseases. This is called treatment-related MDS or secondary MDS. Treatment-related MDS is often more severe and difficult to treat than de novo MDS. (Related: Robin Roberts Diagnosed With Rare Blood Disorder)
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