Bone marrow failure syndromes occur when the bone marrow (the soft, spongy center of your larger bones) fails to produce enough healthy blood cells. New blood cells (stem cells) begin in the bone marrow and are released to the bloodstream when mature. Your blood has three types of cells: oxygen-carrying red blood cells, infection-fighting white blood cells and platelets which help blood clot. Bone marrow failure syndromes can affect one or all three types of blood cells.
Each case is rare and unique. Successful treatment depends on individualized, supportive care based on the severity of each case and how each patient responds to treatment.
What are the symptoms of bone marrow failure syndromes?
While symptoms vary, they can include:
- Pale skin
- Energy loss
- Easy bruising
- Shortness of breath
- Small red dots under the skin (petechiae)
- Unexplained or recurring infections
- Difficulty stopping bleeding (with minor wounds, nosebleeds)
What causes bone marrow failure syndromes?
Bone marrow failure syndromes can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Critical illness or infection
- Endocrine conditions
- Certain medications
- Primary bone marrow processes
- Aplastic anemia
- Malignancy, such as MDS leukemia and lymphoma, among others
- Genetic disorders (Fanconi anemia, dyskeratosis congenital and others)
How are bone marrow failure syndromes diagnosed?
Bone marrow failure syndromes require timely and correct diagnoses. Your doctor will order blood tests and often obtain a bone marrow biopsy, especially if lab tests do not point toward a specific diagnosis. Each condition needs unique care and greatly benefits from a care team of different specialists.
How are bone marrow failure syndromes treated?
Treatment of bone marrow failure syndromes largely depend on the underlying cause. It can include careful monitoring of blood counts, blood transfusions (receiving blood from an external source), holding offending medication, treatment of nutritional deficiency, treatment of underlying cancer, and/or a bone marrow transplant.