Blood Platelet Disorders
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Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)

What are Myelodysplastic Syndromes

MDS is the name given to several types of closely related blood disorders where the production of healthy blood cells by the bone marrow is disrupted. Blasts, which are the immature blood cells, become dysfunctional and die before or immediately after entering the blood stream. The development of healthy cells is blocked which can bring about infection, anemia, or excessive bleeding.

In the 1930’s these syndromes were simply thought to be the first stages of leukemia. It wasn’t until 1976 that they began to be diagnosed and treated as a separate category of blood disorder. Unlike CLL, research has pointed to the fact that a patient’s past experience with chemo or radiation therapy can cause a meyelodyspalstic syndrome. Other potential contributing causes include the exposure to certain chemicals in the form of pesticides, tobacco, and certain solvents. Listed here are some of the more prevalent forms of MDS.

  • Refractory anemia
  • Refractory anemia with excess blasts
  • Refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation
  • Refractory anemia with multilineage dysplasia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome with an isolated chromosome abnormality
  • Unclassifiable myelodysplastic syndrome

MDS Symptoms

Symptoms that could lead to an MDS diagnosis only occur in 50% of patients. Those symptoms include anemia, weakness, fatigue, weakness, mouth sores, rash, fever, bleeding, and prolonged illness. MDS progressed to eventually become acute leukemia in less than one third of cases studied.

Aside from early discovery by way of physical exam, the tests that have  proven efficient in diagnosis are:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) can be instrumental in timely discovery. That testing procedure accurately counts:
    • the number of red blood cells and platelets
    • the number and type of white blood cells
    • the amount of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrier) in the red blood cells.
    • the portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells
  • Peripheral blood smear - The blood is sampled and the count, shape, type, and size of the blood cells is               determined and checked for any abnormalities and fluctuations. 
  • Cytogenic analysis -  Samples from the blood cells or bone marrow are examined. Microscopic analysis determines any changes in the chromosome make-up.
  • Bone marrow aspiration & biopsy – a procedure whereby samples of the bone and bone marrow are removed by needle from the subjects hip or breast bone. Again, microscopic inspection allows the pathologist to be  able to check for cell abnormalities.

MDS Treatment

Treatment for MDS is more in the form of supportive care than cure-finding missions. Blood transfusions and iron chelation therapy (designed to prevent iron overload) have met with some success. In addition to prolonging survival, the purpose and goal of any treatment plan would be to deal with the most tenacious of the symptoms – finding ways to combat the crippling tiredness and breathlessness MDS patients historically deal with.

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Myelodysplastic syndromes are diseases of the blood cells
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