Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Polycythemia vera

Polycythemia vera is an abnormal increase in blood cells, primarily red blood cells (polycythemia) but also white blood cells and platelets. As numbers of blood cells rise, the blood becomes thicker. This increases the risk for dangerous blood clots (thrombosis).

The cause of polycythemia vera is a mutation in the blood cells. But the cause of this mutation is not known. Most often, this rare disease does not cause medical problems. In some cases, the cell growth increases and can cause leukemia.

Symptoms include a headache, itchiness, and a reddish face.

Treatment may include removal of blood (phlebotomy) on a regular basis, such as weekly, until the blood cell count is normal. Medicine might be used to slow down the production of red blood cells.

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