Periodic blood transfusions can relieve symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath for some MDS patients. No other treatment may be needed.
You may be a candidate for red cell or platelet transfusions depending on certain factors, including:
- the level of hemoglobin in your blood
- the extent of your symptoms
- your overall health and whether you have any conditions such as heart disease
Red cells contain iron. If you undergo regular transfusions of up to four units of blood a month, you may be at risk for iron overload, which can potentially damage the heart or liver if not treated. Your doctor regularly monitors your body for excess iron with a blood test called a serum ferritin level.
If you have too much iron in your body, you'll need drug therapy with iron chelators to correct the condition. Your doctor will give you one of two drugs:
- deferasirox (Exjade®), which comes in tablet form that you dissolve in liquid and drink once a day
- deferoxamine mesylate (Desferal®, DFO®), which you'll be given as a slow infusion under the skin (subcutaneous infusion) or in a muscle (intramuscular infusion) for eight to 12 hours a day, five to seven days a week.