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A main feature of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is that they cause low blood cell counts. Sometimes this is found on blood tests, even before symptoms appear. In other cases, symptoms related to shortages of one or more types of blood cells (cytopenias) are the first sign of MDS:
Having too few red blood cells (anemia) can lead to feeling tired, dizzy, or weak, as well as shortness of breath and pale skin.
Not having enough normal white blood cells (leukopenia), especially cells called neutrophils (neutropenia), can lead to frequent or severe infections.
Having too few blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) can lead to easy bruising and bleeding. Some people have frequent or severe nosebleeds or bleeding from the gums.
Other symptoms can include:
Loss of appetite
These symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than MDS. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t go away or get worse over time, see your doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Aster JC, Stone RM. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of the myelodysplastic syndromes. UpToDate. 2017. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-the-myelodysplastic-syndromes on October 4, 2017.
Komrokji RS, Padron E, List AF. Chapter 111: Myelodysplastic syndromes. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.