Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are characterized by progressive bone marrow failure manifesting as blood cytopenia and a variable risk of progression into acute myeloid leukemia. MDS is heterogeneous in biology and clinical behavior. MDS is generally divided into lower-risk (LR) or higher-risk (HR) MDS. Goals of care in HR-MDS is changing the natural history of the disease, whereas in LR-MDS it is symptom control and quality of life. Areas covered: We review the epidemiology, tools of risk assessment, and the available therapeutic modalities for LR-MDS. We discuss the use of erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs), immunosuppressive therapy (IST), lenalidomide and hypomethylating agents (HMAs). We also discuss the predictors of response, combination treatment modalities, and management of iron overload. Lastly, we overview the most promising investigational agents for LR-MDS. Expert commentary: It remains unclear how to best incorporate a wealth of new genetic and epigenetic prognostic markers into risk assessment tools. Only a subset of patients respond to current treatment modalities and most responders eventually lose their response. Once standard therapeutic options fail, management becomes more challenging. Combination-based approaches have been largely unsuccessful. Among the most promising investigational are the TPO agonists, TGF- β inhibitors, telomerase inhibitors, and the splicing modifiers.