Polycythemia vera is a rare blood disorder in which there is an increase in all blood cells, particularly red blood cells. The increase in blood cells makes your blood thicker. This can lead to strokes or tissue and organ damage.
Polycythemia vera is caused by a genetic change (mutation) that develops during your lifetime. It is not an inherited genetic disorder. In most cases it is not known why this happens.
When you have more blood and it is thicker than normal, problems can occur. Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
These symptoms may look like other blood disorders or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and give you a physical exam. Your provider may also do blood tests. These tests will check the increased number of red blood cells in your body. They will also check if there are other conditions that could cause your higher red blood cell count.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Treatment may include:
Polycythemia vera can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated. It can cause blood clots resulting in a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism. Liver and spleen enlargement are other possible complications.
There is no cure for polycythemia vera, but proper treatment can help to reduce or delay any problems. Work with your healthcare provider to create a treatment plan that fits your needs. You should also be physically active in order to increase your heart rate and improve your blood flow.
Other ways to improve your blood flow include:
You should also avoid situations in which you could be hurt, and check your feet for any sores.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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