When myelodysplastic syndrome is detected in the early stages of the condition, it typically does not show any symptoms or signs that the condition has developed. Myelodysplastic syndrome is a slowing progressing condition where the bone marrow begins to produce abnormal blood cells that reduce the effectiveness of the blood. Even though these abnormal blood cells are produced fairly quickly, signs of the condition do not appear until the numbers of abnormal blood cells in the body has risen to a significant amount. The signs that appear once the abnormal cells have reached a certain concentration vary according to the type of normal blood cells the abnormal cells are crowding out.
If the abnormal blood cells are taking up the room needed by healthy red blood cells, anemia may develop as the blood is unable to carry oxygen throughout the body effectively. Anemia causes fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and chills. When the number of abnormal cells affects the number of white blood cells present in the blood stream, the body’s ability to fight infection and illness is compromised. Individuals with low levels of white blood cells become ill with higher frequency and for longer periods of time than individuals with a proper concentration of white blood cells in the blood stream. Reduced levels of platelets in the blood inhibit the body’s ability to repair itself after injury, leading to excessive and uncontrolled bleeding and a reduction in the blood’s ability to clot.
Other signs of myelodysplastic syndrome include cellular and chromosomal changes to the blood cells which are easily viewed beneath a microscope. Because myelodysplastic syndrome corrupts the DNA of the affected blood cells, the cells grow and mature abnormally. In fact, many cases of myelodysplastic syndrome are diagnosed after a blood test is returned with abnormal results, such as the detection of abnormal blood cells in the sample or high counts of a particular type of blood cell. Myelodysplastic syndrome has the ability to progress into acute myelogenous leukemia, which occurs in about 35% of cases. Myelodysplastic syndrome that has progressed into acute myelogenous leukemia is difficult to treat and becomes an aggressive form of the condition.
Other symptoms of myelodysplastic syndrome include fever, fatigue, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, and pale skin. In advanced cases of the condition, petechiae may occur, which are small pools of blood that collect in the pores of the skin. The appearance of these symptoms may prompt the physician to conduct some tests to determine the reason these symptoms are appearing. These tests may include a physical examination, a complete blood count, a blood smear test, cytogenetic analysis, biopsy, or bone marrow test. After the condition has been diagnosed, the physician may choose to begin treatment for the condition. There is no known cure for myelodysplastic syndrome and the treatments used are meant to manage the symptoms of the condition. With proper medical treatment, the symptoms of myelodysplastic syndrome can be managed effectively for a number of years.
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