Myelosuppression involves damage to the bone marrow that is either temporary or chronic. As a result, the synthesis of blood cells is impaired. This reduces the number of blood cells produced, leading to the development of various symptoms. In numerous cases, myelosuppression occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy.


What is myelosuppression?

Myelosuppression is sometimes synonymously called bone marrow inhibition or bone marrow depression. As part of the disease, the usual processes involved in the formation of blood (medical term haematopoiesis) are impaired. The blood formation that takes place in the marrow of the bones is affected. See sciencedict for Introduction to IgA Nephritis.

As a result of the disturbed synthesis of blood cells, both the white and the red blood cells are reduced. In addition, the blood platelets decrease. The lack of the individual blood cells causes various complaints. Red blood cell deficit causes anemia, while white blood cell deficiency causes neutropenia as well as leukopenia.

Thrombocytopenia develops due to the reduced concentration of platelets in the blood. Due to the lack of various blood cells, the immune system and its ability to function are severely attacked. As a result, the affected person suffers from infectious diseases more often than average, which further weaken the organism and may lead to complications.

In particular, the reduced number of blood platelets increases the tendency to bleed. Due to the anemia, the performance of the sick patient decreases. In addition, the people affected get tired more quickly. 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, any damage to the bone marrow is capable of triggering myelosuppression. Because as a result of lesions in the marrow of the bone, the formation of blood is in some cases significantly disturbed, so that myelosuppression may develop. Bone marrow damage is either exogenous or endogenous. Exogenous causes are, for example, radiation or chemotherapy and radiation sickness.

Also, some medicines damage the bone marrow. This is usually an undesirable side effect. Intolerance reactions to certain drugs cause myelosuppression in some cases due to agranulocytosis . Endogenous reasons for the development of myelosuppression are, for example, carcinoses of the bone marrow or immune thrombocytopenia.

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

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Myelosuppression includes various complaints. The main symptoms are anemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Anemia is present when the concentration of the blood pigment hemoglobin or erythrocytes is too low. As a result, the capacity for transporting oxygen through the blood decreases. In the context of neutropenia, the proportion of granulocytes of a neutrophilic type falls below a certain limit. In thrombocytopenia, the blood platelets are greatly reduced.

Diagnosis & course of disease

The diagnosis of myelosuppression is either targeted or incidental, for example through blood tests at the doctor’s. If a person suffers from the symptoms typical of myelosuppression, a doctor’s consultation and examination are recommended. First, the patient tells the doctor all the symptoms and medications he or she has taken.

Complaints such as exhaustion, reduced performance and an increased susceptibility to infections already raise the suspicion of myelosuppression. In the second step, clinical investigations are used. Blood analyzes are particularly relevant for diagnosing myelosuppression.

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


Myelosuppression causes the patient to experience various symptoms and limitations in everyday life. As a rule, however, those affected suffer from severe exhaustion and fatigue. The reduced oxygen transport also leads to a greatly reduced resilience of the patient, so that they can also lose consciousness as the disease progresses.

The susceptibility to various infections and diseases also increases, so that those affected become ill more often. The patient’s quality of life decreases significantly as a result of myelosuppression. It is not uncommon for the symptoms to occur when different medications are taken at the same time.

The symptoms can be reduced by stopping the medication or by replacing the medication with others. This is particularly the case with chemotherapy. There are no further complications. Existing damage to the bones can then heal again in most cases without complications.

Furthermore, in severe cases, stem cell transplantation is required to limit the symptoms. In the further course, the affected person is also dependent on the treatment of the underlying disease in order to avoid consequential damage. It is not uncommon for the life expectancy of the patient to be reduced as a result of myelosuppression.

When should you go to the doctor?

If people who take part in chemotherapy suffer from side effects or impairments, it is necessary to consult a doctor. Although the various side effects are known and foreseeable, the symptoms should still be clarified. The aim is to assess the extent and to ensure that this is within the range of what can be expected. However, myelosuppression can also occur in people who are not undergoing cancer therapy.

Fatigue, low resilience and a decrease in the usual physical performance must be presented to a doctor. If there are changes in general well-being, a pale complexion and an increased susceptibility to infections, a doctor is needed. If everyday obligations can only be performed with difficulty or no longer to the necessary extent and participation in social and societal life decreases, there is a need for action.

If you tire quickly even when performing light tasks, you have a medical condition that needs to be investigated and treated. Abnormalities and changes in behavior, severe mood swings and listlessness should be discussed with a doctor. Excessive demands, apathy and a change in weight are signs of an existing illness. If the symptoms persist for several weeks or if they continuously increase in intensity, a doctor is needed to clarify the cause.

Treatment & Therapy

Myelosuppression can be treated in a variety of ways. If chemotherapy is the trigger for the disease, the patient is given certain drugs at the same time that stimulate the production of new blood. In this way, a shortening or weakening of the myelosuppression is possible if the attack is acute.

In principle, it is possible to recover from myelosuppression as a result of chemotherapy. Damage to the marrow of the bone usually heals completely over time. Another case is when the bone marrow stem cells have been irreversibly destroyed.

Such a myeloablation is desirable in some therapeutic procedures. A stem cell transplant is then required to rebuild the marrow of the bone. Timely diagnosis of myelosuppression with subsequent therapy plays an important role, since it is a life-threatening disease.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of myelosuppression is based on the time of diagnosis, the constitution of the patient and other factors. If the cause of the symptoms is recognized early, the overall prognosis is good. The later the cause of the hemolytic syndrome is established, the worse the prospect of recovery.

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

After successful treatment of myelosuppression, well-being gradually improves. Chemotherapy can cause permanent organ damage and other problems. In individual cases, the disease also results in psychological problems and the sufferers develop anxiety disorders or depression. The specialist doctor responsible provides the prognosis for myelosuppression. He consults the symptoms and the previous course of the disease. The prognosis is usually adjusted continuously, always with regard to the current progress of the treatment.


Preventive measures consist of avoiding the factors that can trigger myelosuppression. However, there is often almost no alternative to these, for example if chemotherapy is necessary. Myelosuppression involves damage to the bone marrow that is either temporary or chronic.

As a result, the synthesis of blood cells is impaired. This reduces the number of blood cells produced, leading to the development of various symptoms. In numerous cases, myelosuppression occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy.


In most cases, no direct or special follow-up measures are necessary in the case of myelosuppression. The disease can usually be treated relatively well, so that there are no further complications or symptoms. However, the earlier the myelosuppression is detected, the better the further course of the disease, so that the affected person should ideally see a doctor as soon as the first symptoms and signs appear.

Most patients with this disease depend on various cosmetic procedures that can alleviate and limit the symptoms. These may have to be repeated from time to time, so that a complete limitation of the disease is not possible. In the case of myelosuppression, contact with other patients with the disease can also be very useful, as this leads to an exchange of information, which can make everyday life easier for those affected.

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

You can do that yourself

Myelosuppression always requires treatment. The medical therapy can be supported by rest and strict compliance with the medical specifications.

Since the disease usually causes severe physical discomfort, it makes sense to take natural painkillers. In addition to teas, which counteract tiredness and exhaustion, homeopathic remedies, such as preparations with arnica or belladonna, can help. St. John’s wort and other gentle sedatives can also alleviate the symptoms and counteract reduced performance. In addition, the diet should be changed. In the first few weeks after the diagnosis, bland diet and the avoidance of irritating foods and stimulants of all kinds apply. Moderate physical activity supports the immune system and has a positive effect on the healing process.

In addition, you should consult your doctor regularly. Medical advice is always required, especially in the event of unusual symptoms or side effects from prescribed medication. If the symptoms do not subside or even increase in intensity, further treatment in a specialist clinic is indicated. The doctor can refer the patient to a suitable specialist and, if necessary, involve a therapist.