Signs and Symptoms
Published: May 1, 2009 12:00 am
The symptoms of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) will vary depending on the severity of the disease. Nearly half of those with MDS display no symptoms upon initial diagnosis.
Anemia, or low red blood cell count, cause the most common symptoms because red blood cells are responsible for distributing oxygen throughout the body. In MDS, the percentage of healthy red blood cells is below normal; therefore, the body does not receive adequate oxygen.
Signs of anemia include:
- Chronic tiredness or fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Pale skin
- Chilled sensations
- Cardiovascular symptoms, such as chest pain (older patients)
Neutropenia, or a low white blood cell count, is another symptom of MDS. A shortage of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, increases the likelihood of acquiring an infection or fever. Of the various types of white blood cells, most people with MDS lack neutrophils, rather than lymphocytes, making them more susceptible to bacterial than viral infections. It is possible to have a defective immune system despite normal neutrophil counts.
The common infections associated with neutropenia include:
- Skin infection
- Sinus infection accompanied by nasal congestion
- Lung infection accompanied by shortness of breath or a cough
- Urinary tract infection accompanied by frequent and painful urination.
Thrombocytopenia, or low platelet count, is also a symptom of MDS. Platelets are responsible for blood clotting.
People with MDS have a greater frequency of the following symptoms:
- Nosebleeds (epistaxis)
- Bleeding gums
- Flat, pinpoint bruises
- Rashes of small red dots(petachiae).
Less common signs of MDS include:
- Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
- Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
- Abnormal shape or size of cells
- Chromosomal abnormalities.
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