Polycythemia vera is a slow – growing blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. These excess cells thicken your blood and it is slowing the flow. Also, they can cause complications, such as blood clots, which can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. The polycythemia vera is not a very common condition. Usually, the polycythemia vera develops slowly and you may have it for years without knowing. Often, this condition is found during a blood test done for another reason.
If the polycythemia vera is not treated, then it can be life – threatening condition. The proper medical care can help to ease signs, symptoms and complications of this disease. There are some cases, when as the time passes, people have a risk of progressing to more – serious blood cancers, such as acute leukemia or myelofibrosis.
Polycythemia vera – Symptoms
There are many people with polycythemia vera who do not have any signs and symptoms. Other people can have some of the following signs and symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
You can have a feeling of fullness or bloating in your left upper abdomen due to an enlarged spleen
Numbness, tightness, burning or weakness in your hands, feet, arms or legs
You can have a painful swelling of one joint, often the big toe
Bleeding or bruising, usually minor
Itchiness, especially following a warm bath or shower
If you have any of the mentioned signs and symptoms of polycythemia vera, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will take a detailed medical history and it will perform a physical exam. You should always talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you so you will not have side effects from some medication.
The polycythemia vera is one of the group of blood cancers which is known as myeloproliferative neoplasms. It happens when a mutation in a gene that is causing a problem with blood cell production. In normal circumstances, the body regulates the each of the three types of blood cells we have – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. When someone has polycythemia vera, then the bone morrow makes too many of some blood cells. The mutation is causing the polycythemia vera to be taught to affect a protein switch which tells the cells to grow. This mutation is happening in the protein Janus kinase 2 (JAK2). Most people who have polycythemia vera have this mutation. The cause for this mutation is not known but generally it is not inherited.
It is known that the polycythemia vera can happen at any age but it is more common in adults who are older than 60.
Here are some possible complications of the polycythemia vera:
Problems due to high levels of red blood cells: If you have too many red blood cells, then this can lead to a number of other complications, including open sores in the lining of your stomach, upper small intestine or esophagus (peptic ulcers) and inflammation in your joints (gout).
Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly): It is known that the spleen helps the body to fight against infections and filter unwanted material, such as damaged or old blood cells. The increased number of blood cells which is caused by polycythemia vera makes your spleen work harder than normal which is causing to enlarge.
Blood clots: Decreased blood flow and increased blood thickness, as well as abnormalities in your platelets, can increase your risk of blood clots. It is known that blood clots can cause a heart attack, a stroke or a blockage in a vein deep within a muscle (deep vein thrombosis) or a blockage of an artery in your lungs (pulmonary embolism).
Other blood disorders: There are rare cases when the polycythemia vera can lead to other blood diseases, such as cancer of the blood and bone marrow (acute leukemia), a condition in which stem cells do not mature or function properly (myelodysplastic syndrome) or a progressive disorder in which bone marrow is replaced with scar tissue (myelofibrosis).