What Are the Different Types of Bone Marrow Disease?

Three pieces of bone with the marrow in the middle.
A diagram of the anatomy of a bone, showing the bone marrow.
Those with bone marrow disease may require frequent blood transfusions.
The phlebotomy used to treat PV is known as therapeutic phlebotomy, since it is being done for therapeutic purposes.
Samples of blood from a healthy person and from one with leukemia, a type of bone marrow disease.
Article Details
  • Written By: Cheryl Toliver
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue in the inner part of large bones, such as the hip and thigh bones, where blood cells are produced. The cells are then released into the bloodstream. Red blood cells carry oxygen; white blood cells fight infection in the body; and platelets allow the blood to clot. Bone marrow sometimes malfunctions due to a number of reasons, including overproduction or underproduction of blood cells, production of abnormal blood cells or initial defects in the stem cells. When this happens, it can result in such bone marrow disease as polycythemia vera, leukemia or lymphoma. Aplastic anemia and multiple myeloma are also diseases related to bone marrow malfunction. Common symptoms of bone marrow disease include infection, anemia, fevers and weight loss.

Polycythemia vera (PV) is a type of bone marrow disease in which the bone marrow makes excessive amounts of red blood cells, making the blood extremely thick. This condition is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, blood clots and stroke. PV can often be treated with phlebotomy treatment, which normally removes one pint of blood per week to thin the blood. Certain medications, such as hydroxyurea and interferon-alpha, can also be used to help prevent the bone marrow from making excessive red blood cells. In some cases, radiation is used to stop the bone marrow from making too many red blood cells.


Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, which causes them to continuously multiply and mature to the point that they crowd out the normal cells. Leukemia can either be acute or chronic — acute lymphocytic leukemia primarily affects children while acute myeloid leukemia affects mostly adults. Many types of leukemia can be treated, and some can be cured. Some treatments include bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplant. Treatments also may include antibiotics, blood transfusions and surgery.

The lymph nodes and the immune system can also be affected by a bone marrow disease called lymphoma, which is a cancer involving cells called lymphocytes. The exact cause of this bone marrow disease is not known, but there are several risk factors involved. Some of them are infections, autoimmune disease, age and family history. Treatment options for lymphoma may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and biological therapy.

Aplastic anemia is a bone marrow disease that hinders or completely stops the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. More often, though, red blood cells are most affected by this disease. Aplastic anemia is often caused by exposure to radiation or to toxins, such as those used in pesticides and insecticides. Some medications, such as those used to treat arthritis, can also be a causal factor, as can viruses that attack bone marrow, such as hepatitis and HIV. In aplastic anemia the stem cells, the precursors of the other three blood cells, do not replicate normally. Therefore, the bone marrow produces a very decreased amount of healthy blood cells. Treatment for aplastic anemia can include bone marrow transplant, bone marrow transfusion, and oxygen therapy.

A bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma can occur when plasma cells are overgrown, causing tumors. These cells accumulate and circulate through the blood, eventually overwhelming the production of healthy cells in other parts of the body. The renegade cells of this bone marrow disease then interfere with the immune system’s ability to fight infection. Causes of the condition are unknown, but it tends to be more common in the elderly and black populations. This type of cancer is difficult to cure and doctors often focus on treating the symptoms to keep patients comfortable. Some treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, medication and surgery.



You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post 2

@Laotionne - I can understand why people would be upset about a second child being conceived for the sole purpose of saving another child. This may not sound like a tough decision, but the treatment for bone marrow cancer can be as painful for the donor as for the person getting the new marrow.

As this article says, bone marrow transplants are very painful. I wouldn't want to put an adult through the procedure. It must be almost unbearable for a child. Can you imagine what it must be like for a child who knows that she has to endure that pain or else or sister will die?

This is putting a lot of pressure on a child. Plus, the child never got to decide in the first place. I can't say what is right and what is wrong, but I know that as a parent this would be a tough decision for me to make.

Post 1

I saw a movie about a young girl who had bone marrow cancer and she needed a transplant, but no good match could be found. The parents of the girl decided to have another child in hopes that the second child could be a donor for the first little girl.

In the movie, the second child, also a girl, was a match and she became a donor. There was a big ethical debate as to whether having a second child just so she could be a donor was the right thing to do.

I don't see anything wrong with this. After all, it's not like the parents won't still love both of the children.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?