"MDS" stands for "myelodysplastic syndromes," a group of conditions in which the bone marrow fails to produce adequate quantities of healthy blood cells, explains the MDS Foundation. Symptoms vary depending on the type of blood cell affected. Patients diagnosed with MDS may have a low red blood cell count, called anemia, a low white blood cell count, called neutropenia, or a low platelet count, called thrombocytopenia.
In healthy individuals, bone marrow synthesizes immature forms of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which go on to develop into mature cells, states the MDS Foundation. In MDS patients, these immature cells either never mature, or they have abnormally low life spans. This failure of the bone marrow to produce healthy blood cells develops gradually, so not all MDS patients die directly of the disease. However, about 30 percent of patients eventually develop acute myeloid leukemia.
MDS patients usually have low red blood cell counts at the time of diagnosis, notes the MDS Foundation. Symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin and heart palpitations. Symptoms of a low white cell count include fever and higher susceptibility to several types of infections, such as urinary tract infections, lung infections, skin infections and sinus infections. MDS patients with low platelet counts may experience easy bruising and bleeding, including a higher risk of nosebleeds.