Bone Marrow Disease Symptoms: Causes And Treatment Options

Bone marrow is soft gelatinous material inside the hollow of some bones, mainly the long bones, breast bone and the hip bone. It is the center for production of hematopoietic cells which we commonly refer as red blood cells, white blood cells and the platelets. Stem cells are precursor of all these cells. According to body need the stem cells will develop as white blood cells, red blood cells or the platelets. The cells when mature are released in the bloodstream.

Bone marrow disease is characterized by reduction in production of mature red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets by the bone marrow.

There are several types of bone marrow disease ranging from anemia to certain forms of cancer. In all these diseases production of different blood cells is affected. The three types of common bone marrow diseases are leukemia, aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

Symptoms Of Bone Marrow Disease

The clinical features of different types of bone marrow disease may depend upon the severity of disease. There are several symptom similarities in all these diseases.

  • Bone pain: Severe bone pain and pain in joints is characteristic of bone marrow disease. It is commonly present in conditions with reduced production of red blood cells.
  • Most patients have anemia as one of the symptoms. The red cell count drastically reduces. As a result the oxygen carrying capacity in the blood is affected. Patient feels exhausted, breathless, fatigued even while resting. Due to anemia, patient appears pale. There may be bleeding from gum or bruise on slightest trauma.
  • Swelling and enlargement of different internal organs is common in bone marrow disorders. Often spleen, liver are enlarged and palpable. Patient presents with recurrent infection due to glandular swelling. Many male patients have testicular swelling.
  • Fever and infection are common, especially upper respiratory infection.

Causes Of Bone Marrow Diseases

There are several factors that can lead to bone marrow disease. The condition can develop in bone marrow itself or diseases outside the bone marrow can invade it. For example cancer from other organs can cause metastases in bone marrow. In other circumstances it could be bone cancer itself. Both this condition can lead to anemia where the red blood cells are destroyed. Aplastic anemia can result in bone marrow dysfunction.

Ionizing radiation, exposure to chemicals and drugs such as benzene, toluene etc, virus diseases etc can cause aplastic anemia.

Myelodysplastic syndrome is another disease responsible for suppression of blood cells in bone marrow. Certain inherited diseases such as Fanconi’s disease, reticular dysgenesis etc can cause bone marrow failure.

Treatment Options For Bone Marrow Diseases

The aim of treatment is to restore normal bone marrow function. To achieve this, patient needs good supportive care. It has to be followed with definitive therapy.

  • Blood transfusion: Packed cell blood transfusion is required as the hemoglobin level of blood is extremely low. Transfusion of red blood cells leads to elevation of hemoglobin and amelioration of symptoms.
  • Care has to be taken to prevent viral infection. Patient should avoid crowded places and wash his hands with soap water before eating food.
  • Platelet transfusion may be thought of in case of reduced platelet count or significant bleeding.
  • Patient may require iron and folic acid supplements.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs are valuable in treatment of aplastic anemia. It helps in restoring bone marrow if patient is unable to do bone marrow transplantation.
  • In bone marrow disease bone marrow transplant is ideal if patient is less than 20 years of age. It is beneficial where an HLA matched donor sibling is available.
  • Certain herbs such as turmeric, green tea, olive leaf, alfalfa, helps in restoring the bone marrow cells in anemia, leukemia, and other forms of bone marrow diseases.