In myelosuppression, bone marrow damage occurs, either temporarily or chronically. As a result, the synthesis of blood cells is impaired. This reduces the number of blood cells produced, causing various ailments. In many cases, myelosuppression is a side effect of chemotherapy.

In myelosuppression, bone marrow damage occurs, either temporarily or chronically. As a result, the synthesis of blood cells is impaired. This reduces the number of blood cells produced, causing various ailments. In many cases, myelosuppression is a side effect of chemotherapy.

What is a myelosuppression?

Myelosuppression is sometimes synonymous with bone marrow inhibition or bone marrow depression. As part of the disease, the usual processes in the formation of blood (medical term hematopoiesis) are affected. This affects the formation of blood that takes place in the marrow of the bones.

As a result of the disturbed synthesis of blood cells, both the white and the red blood cells are reduced. In addition, the platelets diminish. Due to the lack of the individual blood cells, various complaints arise. The deficit of red blood cells causes anemia, while the deficiency of white blood cells causes neutropenia and leukopenia.

Due to the reduced concentration of platelets in the blood, thrombocytopenia develops. Due to the lack of different blood cells, the immune system and its functionality are severely attacked. As a result, the affected person suffers more often than average from infectious diseases that further weaken the organism and may cause complications.

In particular, the reduced number of platelets increases the tendency for bleeding. Due to the anemia the efficiency of the sick patient decreases. In addition, the affected people get tired faster. Basically, myelosuppression is a disease that poses a threat to the lives of patients.


The causes for the development of myelosuppression are manifold. In principle, all damage to the bone marrow is able to trigger myelosuppression. Because in the consequence of lesions on the marrow of the bone, the formation of blood is in some cases significantly disturbed, so that may develop a myelosuppression. The damage to the bone marrow is either exogenous or endogenous. Exogenous causes include, for example, radiation or chemotherapy as well as radiation sickness.

In addition, some drugs damage the bone marrow. This is usually an undesirable side effect. The intolerance reactions to certain drugs cause myelosuppression in some cases through agranulocytosis. Endogenous reasons for the development of myelosuppression are, for example, carcinoses of the bone marrow or an immune thrombocytopenia.

In addition, various pathogens are able to cause myelosuppression. The focus is on special types of viruses. These directly infect the bone marrow stem cells, for example parvoviruses or cytomegaloviruses. Cytotoxic agents may also trigger the disease because they have myelotoxic effects. Unlike the cancer cells, the stem cells in the bone marrow are not resistant to the cytostatic agents. The negative effects increase with each administration.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

Myelosuppression involves various complaints. The main symptoms are anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Anemia is present when the blood hemoglobin or erythrocyte concentration is too low. As a result, the capacity for transporting oxygen across the blood decreases. In the context of neutropenia, the proportion of neutrophil granulocytes falls below a certain threshold. In thrombocytopenia, the platelets are greatly reduced.

Diagnosis & disease course

The diagnosis of myelosuppression is either targeted or accidental, for example, by monitoring the blood in the doctor. If a person suffers from the symptoms typical of myelosuppression, medical advice and examination are recommended. First, the patient describes the doctor all the symptoms and medicines taken.

Complaints such as fatigue, decreased performance and an increased susceptibility to infections already leads to the suspicion of a myelosuppression. The second step involves clinical examinations. To diagnose myelosuppression, analyzes of the blood are especially relevant.

If laboratory tests include anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia, myelosuppression can be diagnosed with relative certainty. When classifying the findings, the symptoms and other circumstances described by the patient also play a role. For example, chemotherapy comparatively clearly indicates myelosuppression and confirms the diagnosis of the disease.


Due to myelosuppression the patient experiences various complaints and limitations in everyday life. As a rule, those affected suffer from a strong fatigue and fatigue. The reduced oxygen transport also leads to a greatly reduced load capacity of the patient, so that he can lose consciousness in the further course of the disease.

The susceptibility to various infections and diseases is also increasing, so that those affected become ill more often. The quality of life of the patient decreases markedly by the myelosuppression. Not infrequently, the symptoms occur when taking various medications.

Symptoms may be limited by discontinuing medication or replacing the medication with others. This is especially the case with chemotherapy. There are no further complications. Existing damage to the bones can heal in most cases without complications.

Furthermore, in severe cases, the transplantation of stem cells is required to limit the complaints. In the further course the person concerned is also dependent on the treatment of the underlying disease in order to avoid consequential damage. Not infrequently, the life expectancy of the patient is reduced by the myelosuppression.

When should you go to the doctor?

Suffering from side effects or impairments, chemists need to consult with a doctor. Although the various side effects are known and predictable, the symptoms should still be clarified. The goal is an assessment of the extent and the assurance that this is in the range of the Expected. Nevertheless, myelosuppression can also occur in people who do not undergo cancer therapy.

Fatigue, a low resilience and a decrease in the usual physical performance should be presented to a doctor. If it comes to changes in general well-being, a pale complexion and increased susceptibility to infection, a doctor is needed. If everyday obligations can only be performed with difficulty or not to the necessary extent and participation in social and social life falls, there is a need for action.

If fast fatigue sets in when performing light tasks, there is a health irregularity that needs to be investigated and treated. Abnormalities and changes in behavior, severe mood swings, and apathy should be discussed with a physician. Overwork, apathy, and weight change are signs of a disease. If the symptoms persist unabated over several weeks or if they continuously increase in intensity, a doctor is needed to clarify the cause.

Treatment & Therapy

Myelosuppression can be treated by various means. At the same time, if chemotherapy is the cause of the disease, patients will be given certain medicines to promote the formation of new blood. In this way, a shortening or weakening of the myelosuppression is possible, if it is an acute thrust.

Basically, recovery from myelosuppression due to chemotherapy is well possible. The damage to the marrow of the bone usually heals completely over time. Another case is when the bone marrow stem cells have irreversibly been destroyed.

Such myeloablation is desirable in some therapy modalities. Then stem cell transplantation is needed to rebuild the marrow of the bone. A timely diagnosis of myelosuppression followed by therapy plays an important role as it is a life-threatening disease.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of myelosuppresion is based on the time of diagnosis, the constitution of the patient and other factors. If the trigger of the complaints is detected early, the prognosis is favorable overall. The later the cause of the hemolytic syndrome is diagnosed, the worse the chance of recovery.

Relatively quickly the symptoms increase in intensity and the prognosis worsens. Life expectancy without therapy is 20 to 40 percent in the first year. Severe complications, such as pneumonitis, worsen the chances of recovery. The quality of life is limited by the symptoms and the side effects of the therapy.

After a successful treatment of myelosuppresion the well-being gradually improves again. Chemotherapy can cause permanent organ damage and other discomforts. In some cases, the disease also causes emotional problems and the sufferers develop anxiety disorders or depression. The prognosis of myelosuppresion is provided by the responsible specialist. He uses the symptom picture and the previous course of the disease. The prognosis is usually adjusted on an ongoing basis, always in view of the current progress of the treatment.


Preventative measures consist of avoiding the factors that can trigger myelosuppression. Often, however, these are almost without alternative, for example, when chemotherapy is needed. In myelosuppression, bone marrow damage occurs, either temporarily or chronically.

As a result, the synthesis of blood cells is impaired. This reduces the number of blood cells produced, causing various ailments. In many cases, myelosuppression is a side effect of chemotherapy.


In most cases, no direct or special follow-up care is necessary in case of myelosuppression. The disease can usually be treated relatively well, so there are no other complications or complaints. However, the sooner the myelosuppression is detected, the better is usually the further course of the disease, so that the affected person should ideally consult a doctor at the first symptoms and signs.

Most patients are dependent on a variety of cosmetic procedures that can alleviate and limit the symptoms of this disease. These may need to be repeated several times, so that a complete restriction of the disease is not possible. Likewise, in myelosuppression the contact with other patients of the disease can be very useful, since it leads to an exchange of information, which can facilitate the everyday life of the person concerned.

Most patients also depend on the support and help of their own family during treatment. Loving and intensive conversations also have a positive effect on the further course of myelosuppression and thus also prevent mental upsets or depressions. In some cases, myelosuppression reduces the life expectancy of the person affected.

You can do that yourself

Myelosuppression requires treatment in each case. Medical therapy can be supported by sparing and strict adherence to medical requirements.

Since the disease usually a strong physical discomfort occurs, the intake of natural painkillers is useful. In addition to teas that counteract fatigue and fatigue, remedies from homeopathy, such as preparations with arnica or belladonna help. St. John's wort and other gentle tranquilizers can relieve the symptoms and counteract reduced performance. In addition, the diet should be changed. In the first weeks after diagnosis, light diet and the avoidance of irritating foods and stimulants of all kinds apply. Moderate exercise supports the immune system and has a positive effect on the healing process.

Accompanying this should be consulted regularly with the doctor. Especially in case of unusual symptoms or side effects of prescribed medication, medical advice is always required. If the symptoms do not subside or even increase in intensity, a further treatment in a specialist clinic is indicated. The doctor may refer the patient to a suitable specialist and, if necessary, involve a therapist.

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