A Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS is a condition that portends a problem with the bone marrow and its ability to produce healthy blood cells. There are several different types of this hematological disorder, and the patient’s condition depends upon the type and severity of syndrome they are suffering from. MDSs are capable of affecting one’s health very severely and are usually untreatable. Mostly, treatment aims at reducing the intensity of symptoms and the possibility of complications. In some cases, bone marrow transplant may provide relief. Either way, early detection is of grave importance, and thus, one needs to watch out for the following symptoms that Myelodysplastic Syndromes produce.
People suffering from almost any type of myelodysplastic syndrome are likely to report feeling fatigued and are tired very often. This nature of chronic fatigue entails a persisting feeling of exhaustion, no matter how well-rested a person is. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not realize that their constant state of tiredness is actually associated with a serious health condition.
If one develops an MDS which causes problems with the production/sustenance of red blood cells, patients are very likely to develop anemia. Anemia produces its own set of symptoms with pallor being amongst a common one. One’s skin, mucosa lining, and nail beds may become visible pale and light, without apparent cause. A lot of anemic individuals may be victims of myelodysplastic syndrome.
In some cases, myelodysplastic syndrome may cause the bone marrow to produce cells that are deficient in platelets. This condition is referred to as Thrombocytopenia when the platelet count falls below 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood. When this occurs, individuals will find that they bleed easily and ceaselessly, since with the lack of platelets, the blood-clotting mechanism is compromised.
The low platelet count leads to not just frequent external bleeding but bruising and petechiae as well. This occurs when a minor bleed takes place internally, often due to broken capillaries or blood vessels. Therefore, patients will notice that they bruise often and tiny red-purple spots (petechiae) appear on their skin in clusters at random.
People with myelodysplastic syndrome may also suffer from shortness of breath or dyspnoea, especially in the aftermath of physical activity. This occurs because due to bone marrow dysfunction and abnormal cells being produced, oxygen is not optimally distributed/used in the body, leading to breathing difficulties on exertion.
Those suffering from certain types of MDS, especially older individuals aged over 55, also report having bone pain. The pain may range from mild to severe and have either a sporadic incidence or be a persistent ache. A lot of people tend to associate these minor aches and pains as natural discomforts of the aging process, and may not realize they are suffering from a hematological disorder.
It often happens that those who are later diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome have a small appetite which has not always been the case. Those with MDS tend to suffer a loss of appetite since the metabolic process, heavily reliant on healthy cells for optimal function, gets impacted negatively. The loss of appetite, being a rather non-specific symptom, does not tend to alert individuals or physicians to the possibility of myelodysplastic syndrome.
Myelodysplastic syndrome is also associated with weight loss. This occurs not just because a loss of appetite leads to low food intake, but also since nutrients are not absorbed properly within the body due to cells’-function being compromised. The weight loss is typically gradual, though noticeable, but a lot of people may not see it as a sign of ill-health, especially if other symptoms are mild and remain undetected.
A lower platelet count in certain types of the myelodysplastic syndrome may cause women to experience heavy menstruation. When occurring alongside anemia, this may cause the patient to be even more tired and weak. In a lot of cases, where other symptoms are mild and non-specific, the condition may be diagnosed as a gynecological problem, without cognizance of the root cause is the loss of inadequate clotting on account of an MDS.
People with myelodysplastic syndrome tend to suffer from infections of viral, bacterial as well as allergic causality very frequently. This happens when the concentration of neutrophils in the blood is abnormally low. With neutrophils forming an important element of the body’s infection-fighting apparatus, patients tend to fall sick again and again. They may contract stomach infections, ENT problems and even more lethal conditions such as sepsis in extreme cases. It is thus important for those who are deemed “sickly and weak” to be checked for myelodysplastic syndrome.
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