Polycythemia Vera

What Is Polycythemia Vera?

Polycythemia vera is a blood disorder in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.  Occasionally it also makes too many white blood cells and platelets.  This interferes with the flow of blood and can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes.

What Causes Polycythemia Vera?

The exact cause is unknown but smoking, living at a high altitude and congenital heart conditions can contribute to the development of polycythemia vera.

What Are Symptoms Of Polycythemia?

Headache, weakness, sweating, itching after a warm bath, and dizziness are all symptoms.

How Is The Diagnosis Of Polycythemia Vera Made?

Diagnosis may be made from a combination of a physical exam, certain blood tests, and a bone marrow biopsy.

How Is Polycythemia Vera Treated?

There is no cure for polycythemia vera.  The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of red blood cells, avoid complications, and control the symptoms.  Treatment may include phlebotomy, which is removal of a unit of blood from the body, low dose aspirin to thin the blood, and chemotherapy to suppress the bone marrow. Therapeutic phlebotomy can be performed at ILCC Peoria, Bloomington and Galesburg offices.

What Is The Prognosis?

Polycythemia vera is a chronic disease.  Most people with polycythemia vera live for many years with proper medical care.  Polycythemia vera can lead to acute myelogenous leukemia in some cases.