When myelofibrosis first begins to develop, in most cases it does not show any signs or symptoms of the condition. The condition develops slowly, so an individual can have the disorder for a number of years before any symptoms of the condition appear. Over time, myelofibrosis causes the reduction of healthy blood cells in the body, leading to the appearance of certain signs depending on which types of blood cells are primarily affected. Once symptoms of the disorder appear, the condition is approaching a dangerous state and may require immediate medical treatment.
The initial symptoms of myelofibrosis may be subtle and are easily confused with the symptoms of many other disorders. Because the symptoms are common and are rarely severe, many individuals believe that they have caught a mild infection and attempt to relieve the symptoms with the use of over the counter medications. The initial symptoms of myelofibrosis include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, and weight loss. These symptoms of myelofibrosis can last for a short period of time or for many weeks. Many of the cases of myelofibrosis that are diagnosed in the early stages of the disorder are discovered because the individual visits the doctor for relief from a long lasting cold.
As the condition progresses, the symptoms and signs of the condition become more severe. The disruption of the blood production in the bone marrow begins to affect other systems of the body. The major signs of the condition are largely dependent on the type of blood cells that are affected by the disorder. If the production of healthy red blood cells is inhibited, the blood cannot carry oxygen to the different systems of the body efficiently. This results in the development of anemia, which causes fatigue, lethargy, weakness, and shortness of breath. In some cases, the anemia can become so severe that regular blood transfusions are necessary to combat the effect that anemia has on the body.
If myelofibrosis disrupts the production of healthy white blood cells, the signs of the condition will be different than if the red blood cells are affected. A reduction in healthy white blood cells reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and foreign agents. This increases the frequency of illness in the individuals affected and the individuals remain ill for much longer periods of time. A large number of the deaths caused by myelofibrosis are due to the body being unable to fight infection effectively. The condition can also cause the increased production of abnormal white blood cells with corrupted DNA, which are unable to fight infection but reproduce rapidly, taking up valuable room in the blood stream needed by healthy blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells tend to collect in the liver and spleen of the affected individual, causing them to swell and become uncomfortable for the patient.
Sometimes, myelofibrosis restricts the production of platelets in the blood which causes the individual to bruise easily and allows unrestricted bleeding. The platelets in the blood are what allows the blood to clot if an individual is injured. Without the proper amount of platelets in the blood, even the smallest cuts will refuse to heal themselves because there are no platelets to bind the edges of the wound together. A large percentage of the deaths that occur from myelofibrosis are due to uncontrolled bleeding after trauma. The signs of myelofibrosis vary in intensity from individual to individual, but the appearance of any of the signs of myelofibrosis should be reviewed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
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