The myelodysplastic syndrome refers to a group of blood cell producing disorders in which the bone marrow produces mostly unhealthy blood cells and just a few healthy ones. This could affect all the different types of blood cells (i.e Red blood cells, White blood cells, and Platelets) or it could affect only one or two of the blood cell types. Over time, the unhealthy cells which are usually bigger in size than their healthy counterparts, become more and more numerous and start squeezing the healthy cells leading to a progressive reduction in the number of healthy cells being released into the bloodstream. Doctors can buy stem cells online for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome
Types Of Blood Cells And Their Functions
- Red blood cells – Also known as Erythrocytes, are responsible for the distribution of oxygen to all the tissues in the body.
- White blood cells – Also known as Leukocytes, are responsible for the protection of the body from infections.
- Platelets – Also known as Thrombocytes, help the blood to clot so that we don’t bleed out when we get injured.
If a lower number of healthy blood cells are released into the bloodstream, the person becomes anemic, more prone to infections and bleeds easily. MDS is still relatively rare and it is majorly seen in the older population and it could be mild for many years or it could develop very aggressively and could even lead to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Types Of Myelodysplastic Syndrome
- Myelodysplastic syndrome with single-lineage dysplasia – Previously known as refractory anemia. In this form, only one type of blood cell is affected, usually the red blood cell.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome with multilineage dysplasia – Previously known as refractory cytopenia. At least two blood cell types are affected.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome with excess blasts – Previously known as refractory anemia with excess blasts. All the three blood cell types are affected and the patient has a higher risk of developing Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome with ring sideroblasts – Previously known as refractory anemia with ring sideroblasts. There are too many unhealthy red blood cells in the blood and they contain lots of iron. The white blood cells and platelets are normal.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome with isolated del (5q) chromosomal abnormality – There are too few red blood cells in the blood and there is a specific change in the chromosome.
- Unclassifiable Myelodysplastic syndrome – It does not fit into the other categories.
What Are The Causes Of Myelodysplastic Syndrome?
- Unknown causes – This is called Primary Myelodysplastic syndrome.
- Cytotoxic chemotherapy – This is known as Secondary Myelodysplastic syndrome or Treatment-related Myelodysplastic syndrome.
- Radiation – Either from past treatment with radiation therapy or due to long-term exposure to radioactive substances.
- Genotoxic chemicals – Like benzene, pesticides, tobacco, fertilizers, etc
- Exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium, arsenic.
- Viral infection
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Myelodysplastic Syndrome?
Depending on the progression of the disease, symptoms may be very mild at first and then become severe or they may occur suddenly. Common symptoms related to myelodysplastic syndrome include:
- Weakness and Tiredness – Due to the low number of red blood cells.
- Shortness of breath or Difficulty in breathing – Due to the low number of red blood cells.
- Nose and gum bleeding, red or purple spots or patches on the skin – Due to the low number of platelets.
- Fever, Cough, Difficulty during urination, Feeling cold or shivery, Having a running stomach, Headache, Discharge from a wound site are all possible signs of an infection – Due to the low number of white blood cells.
What Are The Risk Factors Of The Myelodysplastic Syndrome?
There are some conditions that increase the risk of developing the myelodysplastic syndrome. Some of these factors include the following;
- Age: It has been observed that myelodysplastic syndrome tends to affect older adults, especially people above the age of 60.
- Exposure to radiations: This is more prominent in patients that have received radiation therapy in the past. These include cancer patients and people that regularly has to undergo radiation tests, such as X-ray.
- Exposure to chemicals: This is common in patients that have undergone chemotherapy in the past. They are more prone to developing this disease.
- Exposure to heavy metals: This occurs in people that have been exposed to metals such as mercury and lead, especially in large quantities.
What Are The Complications Of Myelodysplastic Syndrome?
Below are some of the complications of the myelodysplastic syndrome;
- Anaemia: This is a condition in which a patient has low red blood cell count. Patients usually get tired, even after performing a non-stressful task.
- Increased chances of developing cancer.
What Is The Treatment Of Myelodysplastic Syndrome?
The type of treatment that each patient gets is dependent on the type of myelodysplastic syndrome the patient has, the severity of the disease if there are any other related diseases and the possibility of developing Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The aim of treatment is to restore the healthy blood cells to the normal number and manage symptoms accordingly. If a patient is considered the low risk to the development of cancer, they might not undergo any treatment at first. Instead, frequent monitoring of the blood levels and quality with frequent blood tests is done. For those that require treatment, the different groups of treatment are:
- Supportive treatment. This includes-
- Blood transfusion
- Iron chelating drugs i.e drugs that help to remove excess iron that might accumulate in the body due to the frequent blood Examples are deferasirox, desferrioxamine.
- Growth factors like Erythropoietin can be used to stimulate the growth of healthy red blood cells.
- Antibiotics to treat infections.
- Immunosuppressive treatment- This is used sometimes when there is an abundance of unhealthy white blood cells. Immunosuppressive agents include Anti-thymocyte globulin, Cyclosporin.
- Chemotherapy – Agents like Azacitidine (Vidaza), Cytarabine, etc can be used to slow down the production of these unhealthy cells.
- Lenalidomide – it’s used to treat myelodysplastic syndrome with 5q deletion.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is one of the most effective treatments for myelodysplastic syndrome. This is done by transplanting hematopoietic stem cells to the patient. These cells are capable of differentiating into different types of blood cells.
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