Polycythemia vera is a form of blood disorder, known as myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN). It causes your bone marrow to produce an abnormally high amount of red blood cells. These extra cells cause thickening of the blood, delaying its flow and even causing major complications like blood clots.

Polycythemia vera is uncommon. It normally develops gradually, and you may have it for years without realising it. Often, the problem is discovered through a routine blood test.

Polycythemia vera can be fatal if left untreated. However, adequate care can alleviate the disease's indications, symptoms, and complications.



Many persons who have polycythemia vera show no symptoms or indicators. Some people experience vague symptoms like headaches, dizziness, lethargy, and blurred vision. More specific polycythemia vera symptoms include:

Dry gangrene:

  • Itching, particularly after a hot water bath or shower
  • Hand, foot, arm, or tingling, burning, leg numbness, or weakness
  • A feeling of fullness shortly after eating, as well as bloating
  • Left upper abdominal pain may indicate an enlarged spleen.
  • Bleeding that is unusual, such as a nosebleed or bleeding gums.
  • Painful swelling of a single joint, usually the big toe.
  • When lying down, you may experience shortness of breath.
  • Blood clots in limbs, brain and heart.

When To See a Doctor?

If you experience signs or symptoms of polycythemia vera, consult your doctor.

Get the best treatment for polycythemia vera from the best Hematologist and hemato-oncologists at Medicover Hospitals.

Causes and risks

Polycythemia vera develops when a gene mutation causes difficulty with blood cell development. Your body normally regulates the number of the three types of blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. However, in polycythemia, the bone marrow produces an excessively high volume of some of these blood cells.

The cause of the polycythemia vera gene mutation is unknown, although it is not usually transmitted from your parents.

Risk elements

Polycythemia vera can strike at any age, but it is most frequent in adults aged 50 to 70. Men are more likely than women to get polycythemia vera, while women develop the disease at a younger age.


Polycythemia vera can lead to the following complications:

Blood clots:

The blood thickness increases, blood flow decreases, and platelet abnormalities increase the risk of blood clots formation. Blood clots can cause a heart attack, stroke, or a blockage in a pulmonary artery or a vein deep within a thigh muscle or the belly.

Spleen enlargement:

The spleen helps your body in fighting infection and filtering unwanted materials such as old or broken blood cells. Because of the increased quantity of blood cells caused by polycythemia vera, your spleen works harder than usual, causing it to grow.

High amounts of red blood cells cause problems:

Too many red blood cells can cause a variety of additional problems such as open sores on the internal stomach lining, upper small intestine, or esophagus (peptic ulcers) and joint inflammation (gout).

Other types of blood diseases:

Polycythemia vera can lead to other blood illnesses, such as bone marrow scar tissue, a condition in which stem cells do not mature or function normally, or blood and bone marrow cancer (acute leukemia).

Diagnosis and treatment

Your doctor will take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical examination.

Examinations of the blood

Blood testing may reveal the following if you have polycythemia vera:

  • There are more red blood cells than usual and an increase in platelets or white blood cells.
  • A higher proportion of red blood cells in total blood volume (hematocrit measurement)
  • Increased quantities of the iron-rich protein that transports oxygen in red blood cells (hemoglobin).

Biopsy or bone marrow aspiration

If your doctor suspects you have polycythemia vera, they may propose a biopsy or bone marrow aspiration to acquire a sample of your bone marrow.

A bone marrow biopsy involves the collection of a sample of solid bone marrow, whereas bone marrow aspiration is frequently performed concurrently. During an aspiration, your doctor samples your marrow's liquid part.

Polycythemia vera has no known treatment. The treatment focuses on lowering your chances of problems, and these remedies may help alleviate your discomfort.


Blood withdrawal

The most common treatment for polycythemia vera is regular blood draws using a needle inserted into a vein (phlebotomy). It's the same process as donating blood.

This reduces your blood volume and the number of extra blood cells in your body. The severity of your disease determines the frequency with which you must get blood.

Itching relief treatments

If you have itchy skin, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or recommend UV light treatment to alleviate your discomfort.

In clinical trials, medications used to treat depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), helps in alleviate itching.

Medication for the heart

Your doctor will also most likely prescribe medications to help you manage heart and blood vessel disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol

To lower your risk of blood clots, your doctor may advise you to take low-dose aspirin. Low-dose aspirin may also aid in the relief of burning pain in your feet or hands.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Take steps to manage this condition when diagnosed with polycythemia vera, such as:


Physical activities like walking can help enhance your blood flow, lowering your chance of blood clots. Stretching and exercising your legs and ankles can also help your blood circulation.

Avoid tobacco:

Using tobacco can cause your blood arteries to constrict, raising your risk of a heart attack or stroke due to blood clots.

Take care of your skin:

Bathe in cool water, apply a gentle cleanser, and pat your skin dry to prevent itching. Adding starch to your bath, such as cornstarch, may help. Hot tubs, heated whirlpools, and hot showers or baths should be avoided. Scratching can cause skin damage and raise the risk of infection. To keep your skin moist, apply lotion.

Extreme temperatures should be avoided:

Extreme heat and cold can harm poor blood circulation. Always wear warm clothing in a cool environment, especially on your hands and feet. Protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of fluids in hot weather.

Look out for sores:

Sores on your hands and feet, in particular, might be made more difficult to heal due to poor circulation. Inspect your feet regularly and report any sores to your doctor.

Do’s and Don’ts of Polycythemia

Polycythemia vera is a blood disorder causing production of many red blood cells (RBC’s). This condition requires proper treatment and a set of do’s and don’ts to be followed to manage it and its related symptoms.

Do’s Don’ts
Drink water throughout the day. Eat more sugary foods
Take calcium-rich foods in your diet such as bananas, broccoli, and dairy. Take processed and junk foods like chips.
Take lean proteins in the diet. Take your medicines irregularly
Include vegetables in the diet. Consume alcohol and smoke
Exercise regularly Lead a sedentary lifestyle

Follow the do’s and dont’s of polycythemia vera to manage this condition and stay away from its complications.

Polycythemia Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most trusted team of doctors and medical experts who are experienced in providing the best healthcare services. Our diagnostic department is equipped with modern technology and equipment to conduct the tests required for the diagnosis of polycythemia vera, based on which a dedicated treatment plan is designed. We have an excellent team of hematologist who diagnoses and treat this condition with utmost precision resulting in successful treatment outcomes.



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