What Are the Basics of Erythrocytosis?

What is the definition of erythrocytosis?

Erythrocytosis is a condition in which your body makes too many red blood cells (RBCs), or erythrocytes. Too many red blood cells can make your blood thicker than normal and lead to blood clots and other complications.

There are two types of erythrocytosis: primary erythrocytosis and secondary erythrocytosis. Primary erythrocytosis can be inherited, and secondary erythrocytosis can be caused by the use of certain drugs.

 

What causes erythrocytosis?

Causes of erythrocytosis vary from type to type. Primary erythrocytosis is caused by a mutation in genes that control the number of the RBCs your bone marrow makes, the other cause may be polycythemia vera, which makes your blood become very thick.

The exact causes of secondary erythrocytosis are unknown. But factors that may increase people’s risk of getting secondary include smoking, tumors, medications, lack of oxygen, high altitudes, etc.

 

What are the symptoms of erythrocytosis?

Symptoms of erythrocytosis are as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itching
  • Nosebleeding
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased blood pressure

How to diagnose erythrocytosis?

Common diagnosis methods include:

Blood Tests
Blood tests can be done to check levels of hematocrit, hemoglobin and erythropoietin (EPO). Hematocrit is the percentage of RBCs in your blood, hemoglobin is the protein in RBCs that carries oxygen throughout your body, EPO is a hormone your kidney release. People with primary erythrocytosis will have a low EPO level, people with secondary erythrocytosis may have a high EPO level.

Pulse Oximetry
It measures the amount of oxygen in your blood, it can show whether a lack of oxygen leads to erythrocytosis.

Bone Marrow Aspiration or Biopsy
Remove a sample of the tissue, liquid, or both from inside your bones, and then test in labs to see if your bone marrow is making too many RBCs.

 

What are the treatments for erythrocytosis?

Treatments for erythrocytosis are :

Aspirin
Taking low doses of aspirin everyday may help prevent blood clots.

Phlebotomy
It removes a small amount of blood from your body to lower the number of RBCs.

Medications to lower RBC production
These kinds of medications include Hydroxyurea (Hydrea), Busulfan (Myleran), Interferon, etc.

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