Bone marrow is a soft spongy material that is located inside of the bones. Bone marrow is necessary for the transition that stem cells make to become one of the types of blood cells (red blood cells, platelets or white blood cells). Bone marrow disease occurs when there is some kind of abnormality or interference with the production of blood cells. Leukemia, aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are three types of bone marrow disorders that affect the production of blood cells and the bone marrow. Symptoms of each type of bone marrow disease will vary according to its severity, but tend to be similar in nature.
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Bone pain, an aching of the joints and headaches are all symptoms of bone marrow disease. These types of complaints occur when a person with a bone marrow disorder has a very low red blood cell count.
When red blood cell counts become dangerously low, a person can develop anemia due to the drop in oxygen that is carried throughout the body. Excessive fatigue and weakness are symptoms of anemia that may occur in patients with bone marrow disease. Additional signs include becoming very pale and "washed out" looking, and bruising very easily. People who have anemia due to bone marrow disorders may bleed easily and more profusely than others.
Bone marrow disorders can lead to swelling of the internal organs in some people. The spleen, kidneys or liver may become enlarged in response to the disease that is damaging the blood cells. According to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, a person with bone marrow disease may experience frequent infection and, as a result, swollen glands. Males with blood disorders that lead to bone marrow abnormalities may experience a swelling of the testicles.
Extensive blood and gene testing is performed on people who have bone marrow disease. Some of the signs of illness from a scientific perspective include chromosomal changes and gene changes in response to the disease. People who have some kinds of leukemia may show parts of chromosomes that move to other chromosomes. Blood tests may also show large amounts of replicated white blood cells that have populated the patient's blood in an attempt to fight the infection.