Myelodysplastic Syndromes: An Overview

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), often referred to as a “bone marrow failure disorder, are a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. In MDS, the cells in the bone marrow slow down, or stop, making the three types of blood cells: red (erythrocytes), white (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes). Most patients with MDS will develop anemia (low numbers of red blood cells) and may need blood transfusions. However, some patients also have low numbers of white blood cells (which fight infections) and platelets (which help blood clot when you bruise or get a cut).


Approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with MDS in the United States each year. Although MDS can affect people of any age, the majority are over 60 years old. With a few exceptions, the exact causes of MDS are unknown. Some evidence suggests that certain people are born with a tendency to develop MDS due to an external factor. If the external factor cannot be identified, then the disease is referred to as primary MDS. In some cases, MDS is caused by chemotherapy used to treat a different disease. This is called secondary MDS. benzeneLong-term workplace exposure to benzene and certain chemicals used in the petroleum and rubber industries can also increase the risk of developing MDS. While benzene use is now highly regulated, it is not clear which other chemicals may predispose individuals to MDS, although certain occupations, such as painters and coal miners, have been labeled “at risk” for the development of MDS.


In the early stages of MDS patients may experience no symptoms at all. However, some patients experience definite symptoms: Low red cell count (anemia), low white cell count (neutropenia), and low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). Possible signs of a myelodysplastic syndrome include feeling tired, shortness of breath, easy bruising/bleeding, fever/frequent infections, or having skin that is paler than usual.


Treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes range from supportive care that helps relieve symptoms to aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, that may slow or prevent progression of the disease. Problems caused by low blood cell counts, such as fatigue and infections, may be treated with blood transfusions.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MDS due to exposure to benzene or other chemicals, you may be entitled to compensation. As co-chairs of AAJ’s benzene litigation group, the dedicated attorneys at The Madeksho Law Firm, PLLC have over 20 years of experience litigating benzene cases.