What Are the Basics of Polycythemia Vera?

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What is the definition of polycythemia vera?

Polycythemia vera is a slow-growing blood cancer. It starts in the bone marrows and the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells.

Polycythemia vera develops very slowly and it isn’t common. Without treatments for polycythemia vera, it can be life-threatening and can trigger many complications such as blood clots, stroke, heart attack, etc.


What causes polycythemia vera?

The exact causes of polycythemia vera are unknown, but if the gene called JAK2 doesn’t work right in your body, you may be supposed to have polycythemia vera. Although it’s rare, parents can pass this broken gene to children.


What are the symptoms of polycythemia vera?

Some people with polycythemia vera may not have symptoms, but others may have symptoms or signs like:

  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Itching, especially after a warm bath or shower
  • Painful swelling of one joint, often the big toe
  • Fevers
  • Sweating, especially at night
  • Reddened face that looks like sunburn
  • Bleeding or bruising, usually minor


How to diagnose polycythemia vera?

If you have the symptoms listed above, you may need the following tests to help you diagnose it:

Complete Blood Count (CBC)
An unusual high number of any of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets could be a sign of polycythemia vera.

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