What is MDS and what is the meaning of Myelodysplastic Syndromes?
Myelodysplastic describes a malfunction of the bone marrow in producing the correct quantity and quality of blood cells:
Myelo = bone marrow
Dysplastic = strangely- or abnormally-shaped
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of malignant blood disorders in which the bone marrow fails to produce healthy blood cells.
Cells that can be affected:
- Red cells (also called erythrocytes) – which carry oxygen to organs and tissues in the body.
- White cells – which collectively fight against infection.
- Platelets (also called thrombocytes) – which prevent us from bruising and bleeding.
A person with MDS will suffer from chronic tiredness and weakness due to the low levels of haemoglobin in the red blood cells, which carries oxygen to the body.
This is debilitating in itself and often requires regular blood transfusions. Transfusions are time consuming and restrictive.
In MDS, platelet numbers, which prevent bleeding and bruising, can often be very low. This can result in spontaneous bleeding and bruising.
If an injury is sustained blood loss may be excessive. Clearly these factors result in many constraints and difficulties. Platelet transfusions may be required on a regular basis.
When white cells numbers become very low (as they often do in MDS) the body is unable to fight off infection normally. This results in a greater than usual incidence of infections which take longer than usual to clear and might require hospitalisation. White cells cannot be given by transfusion.
There are a number of options to treat MDS. Treatment decisions are based on the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS-R).
The only cure is a bone marrow transplant for those patients who are fit enough and who have a suitable donor. Recovery may take months or even years and during this time the patient has to be monitored regularly and where necessary, be supported with transfusions.