Polycythemia is a condition of the bone marrow. It makes too many red blood cells and platelets. Sometimes, white blood cells are affected. The increase of blood cells can cause the blood to thicken and clot.
There are many types. Each type has its own set of causes and risk factors. There is no exact cure. Early and proper care lowers the chances of serious problems.
Location of Active Bone Marrow in an Adult
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A mutation in certain genes causes polycythemia.
Your chances of polycythemia are higher:
The symptoms of polycythemia happen slowly. They differ from person to person. Some people show no signs of the condition. Polycythemia may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Polycythemia is sometimes found by chance during a routine blood test.
You may have:
The tests can show the severity of the disease. This helps guide a care plan.
Care is based on severity of the disease. The goal is to control the course of the disease. This will help with managing problems caused by blood clots or bleeding. For some, a combination of methods works best.
Care may involve:
This technique allows a person to have blood removed at times. It lowers the amount of red blood cells. Phlebotomy is done when the levels get too high.
Medicines can also help ease symptoms:
An enlarged spleen can be removed if it’s causing problems. Common problems are pain, pressure, or higher blood pressure in the liver. Your chances of certain infections are higher without a spleen.
There is no way to prevent polycythemia since the cause is unknown.
American Society of Hematology
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/17/2018