What is preleukemia?

Preleukemia, also known as myelodysplastic syndrome, is a medical condition that affects the bone marrow. When a person has preleukemia, their bone marrow does not make an adequate number of normal, healthy blood cells. In such a case, this condition can eventually develop into acute leukemia, which is bone marrow cancer. Unfortunately, scientists have not yet developed a cure for preleukemia; Doctors generally focus on using treatments that minimize symptoms and help prevent complications. In some cases, doctors may even recommend bone marrow transplants as a way to help patients live longer lives.

When a person has preleukemia, they may not notice any symptoms at first. In most cases, there are no symptoms while the condition is in its early stages. Eventually, recognizable symptoms may develop, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and paleness. A person with this condition may also bruise easily and have more infections than the average person. Some people also develop small red spots under the skin, which are caused by bleeding and are known as petechiae.

Preleukemia usually develops when something happens to disrupt the normal production of blood cells. When a person has this condition, their blood cells don't develop normally and end up dying while they're still in the bone marrow or after they enter your blood. As time passes, the defective cells accumulate and begin to outnumber the patient's healthy cells. The result of this interruption is often frequent infections and abnormal bleeding. A person with this condition may also develop anemia.

Sometimes doctors diagnose preleukemia but aren't sure what caused it. In other cases, doctors can identify causes such as chemotherapy and radiation, as well as exposure to certain chemicals. Interestingly, preleukemia that has no known cause may be easier to treat than forms of the condition that develop due to factors that doctors can identify.

Because there is no cure for preleukemia, treatment often focuses on supporting the patient's health and managing their symptoms. Treatment may also include efforts to help prevent it from developing into acute leukemia. Blood transfusions are sometimes used to replace unhealthy blood cells, and various medications may be prescribed to help increase the number of healthy blood cells. In some cases, patients undergo bone marrow transplants, which involves the use of drugs to destroy unhealthy blood cells and then replace the failing bone marrow with a healthy transplant.

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