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Myelodysplastic Syndromes - Video

The animated videos in NORD’s Rare Disease Video Library provide brief introductions to rare disease topics for patients, caregivers, students, professionals and the public. NORD collaborates with medical experts, patient organizations, videographers and Osmosis to develop the videos, which are made possible by individual donations, educational grants and corporate sponsorships. NORD is solely responsible for the content.

General Discussion


Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a rare group of blood disorders that occur as a result of disordered development of blood cells within the bone marrow. The three main types of blood elements (i.e., red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) are affected. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to the body, white blood cells help fight infections, and platelets assist in clotting to stop blood loss. In MDS, dysfunctional blood cells fail to develop normally and enter the bloodstream. As a result, individuals with MDS generally have abnormally low blood cell levels (low blood counts). General symptoms associated with MDS include fatigue, dizziness, weakness, bruising and bleeding, frequent infections, and headaches. In some affected individuals, MDS may progress to life-threatening failure of the bone marrow or develop into acute leukemia. The exact cause of MDS is unknown but genetics and certain chemotherapeutic drugs or toxic exposures in the environment may play a part.


Myelodysplastic syndromes were first noted in the medical literature in 1950s where they were described as pre-leukemic conditions. Myelodysplastic syndromes were not regarded as separate, distinct disorders until 1982. In the past, these disorders have also been known by a variety of names including refractory anemia, oligoblastic anemia, myelodysplastic anemia, pre-leukemia, and smoldering leukemia.

Synonyms of Myelodysplastic Syndromes

  • MDS
  • myelodysplasia
  • pre-leukemia
  • refractory anemia

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