Polycythemia Vera

What is polycythemia vera?

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 and can cause problems with blood
flow (circulation). This can lead to strokes or tissue and organ damage.

What causes polycythemia vera?

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.

What are the symptoms of polycythemia vera?

When you have more blood and it is thicker than normal, problems can occur. Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:

  • Lack of energy (fatigue) or weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing while lying down
  • Vision problems, such as double vision, blurred vision, and blind spots
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Night sweats
  • Face becomes red and warm
    (flushed)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Too much menstrual bleeding
  • Coughing up blood
  • Bruising
  • Itchy skin (often after a hot bath)
  • Gout
  • Numbness
  • High blood pressure

These symptoms may look like other blood disorders or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is polycythemia vera diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will take
your health 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.