Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are heterogeneous malignant bone marrow disorders diagnosed most often in elderly white persons. MDS have significant clinical consequences, including cytopenias leading to infection, bleeding, and death; and approximately one-third of cases progress to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Only one potentially curative therapy exists-allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT)-but this therapy is not widely used due to associated morbidity and mortality in elderly patients. Recent research suggests MDS occurs more frequently than previously thought and may be responsible for a substantial proportion of unexplained anemias in elderly persons. Incidence of MDS is expected to increase with increases in life expectancy. Therefore, we offer this comprehensive narrative update of MDS to inform the medical community treating the population at risk for MDS, with a focus on MDS epidemiology and clinical management in the United States. This review includes a brief historical background of MDS, provides an overview of the population burden of disease, discusses the molecular pathology of MDS, describes the clinical features and management of MDS, and discusses future directions in MDS research. Our objective is to inform general medicine practitioners and call attention to the need for translational research in MDS.