What is a Bone Marrow Disorder?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2018
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Bone marrow is tissue inside of the bones that contains stem cells. Stem cells function in the body much like seeds function in the ground. They remain within the bone marrow and can develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, which are then released into the body. A bone marrow disorder refers to any of numerous diseases that involve problematic stem cell development. Examples of bone marrow disorders include leukemia, myeloproliferative disorders (MPDs), and lymphomas.

Each type of bone marrow disease is characterized by different problems. Leukemia, for example, is a cancer of any of the white blood cells. This disease is characterized by abnormal white blood cells which reproduce into increasing numbers of abnormal cells. People with this type of bone marrow disorder tend to suffer frequent infections, bone pains, and enlarged spleens.

Lymphoma is a bone marrow disorder that also affects the white blood cells. It differs from leukemia in a number of ways, however. To begin with, this disease specifically targets a group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes.

A second difference is that this disease does not begin in the bone marrow. Instead, it begins with abnormal cells produced by the lymph nodes. These cells reproduce and eventually spread to other parts of the body such as the bone marrow.


An MPD is a bone marrow disorder characterized by the abnormal production of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the bone marrow. In many instances, the abnormality is that these stem cells are excessively produced. If cells are not produced to completion, they generally do not leave the bone marrow. For this reason, such a bone marrow disorder usually involves numerous abnormal cells crowding the bone marrow thereby blocking normal cells.

The type of MPD a person has depends on the type of abnormality. There are several diseases listed in this group. Some symptoms associated with this group of diseases are headaches, abnormal bleeding, and fatigue.

There are not any known methods for preventing bone marrow disorders. One reason for this may be because there are several suspected causes but the exact causes of these diseases are unclear. Some speculate that bone marrow disorders are caused by exposure to chemicals during radiation treatment. Various environmental factors have also been implicated. Other theories suggest that rare genetic conditions are responsible.

However, in most instances, the conclusion regarding the cause of a particular bone marrow disorder is never reached. Furthermore, bone marrow diseases are usually incurable. The exception to this is that disorders caused by leukemia may be cured with radiation or chemotherapy.

There are numerous courses of treatment that may be prescribed to a person when she suffers from a bone marrow disorder. Two factors that play a role in determining the treatment course are severity of the disease and the accompanying symptoms. Treatment techniques may include blood transfusions, antibiotic therapy, or bone marrow transplants.



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