Polycythemia vera – A chronic blood cancer. And that means it lasts a long time and may never go away. Some people with Polycythemia vera may not have any symptoms. Or some of them have severe symptoms that affect their daily lives. Polycythemia vera is also a progressive disease. It may get advance or worse over time.
Polycythemia vera is not common. It develops slowly, usually, and you might have it for years without knowing or getting any symptoms. Most Often, the conditions are found during a blood test done for any other reason.
Without treatment, polycythemia vera can be life-threatening too. But by taking proper medical care, we can ease signs, symptoms and complications of the disease. Over time, in some cases, there is a risk of progressing to more-serious blood cancers, such as myelofibrosis or acute leukaemia.
It is very important to consult your Doctor about controlling your blood levels and disease-related symptoms. Knowing how Polycythemia vera is affecting you gives your Doctor vital information to help manage your care.
Common sign and symptoms of polycythemia vera are as following:
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Painful burning of the hands or feet
- Numbness of the hands or feet
- Itching (especially after a warm shower)
- Sweating (at night or during the day)
- Blurred vision or blind spots
- Bleeding from the gums
- Heavy bleeding even from small cuts
- Shortness of breath
- Bone pain
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Pain under the left ribs
- Early feeling of fullness when eating
- Dizziness, Vertigo, lightheadedness
- Problems concentrating
- Angina (chest pain)
- Ringing in the ears
- Reddening of the face
- Burning feeling on the skin
Causes of Polycythemia Vera
Polycythemia vera occurs when a mutation in a gene causes a problem with blood cell production. Usually, when the body regulates the number of each of the 3 types of blood cells we have — red blood cells(RBC), white blood cells (WBC) and the platelets. But in polycythemia vera, the bone marrow starts making too many of some blood cells.
The mutation that causes polycythemia vera is affected by the protein switch, which tells the cells to grow. Specifically, it is a mutation in the protein Janus kinase 2. Most of the people who have polycythemia vera have this mutation. And the cause of the mutation is still not known, but it is generally not inherited.
Major Risk factors
At any age, Polycythemia vera can occur, but it is most common in adults above 60 years.
Complications of polycythemia vera are included of the followings:
Increased blood thickness or decreased blood flow, Blood clots. Abnormalities in the platelets increase the risk of blood clots. Blood clots can cause a heart attack, a stroke, or a blockage of an artery in your lungs (pulmonary embolism) or a vein deep within a muscle.
Enlarged spleens – The spleen help body fight infection and also filter any unwanted material, i.e. old or damaged blood cells. And the increased number of blood cells caused by polycythemia vera makes your spleen work harder than usual, which causes it to enlarge.
Problems are due to the high levels of red blood cells (RBC). Too many red blood cells (RBC) can lead to so many complications.
open sores on the inside lining of your stomach, oesophagus (peptic ulcers) or upper small intestine and inflammation in the joints (known as gout).
Many other blood disorders. Like – in rare cases, polycythemia vera can lead to new blood diseases, also including a progressive disorder in which the bone marrow is used to get replaced with scar tissue (myelofibrosis), this is a kind of condition in which stem cells do not mature or does not function correctly (myelodysplastic syndrome), or blood cancer and bone marrow (acute leukaemia).