Polycythemia vera is a disorder of the bone marrow. It mainly causes too many red blood cells to be produced. The numbers of white blood cells and platelets may also be higher than normal.
This is a rare disorder that occurs more often in men than in women. It is not usually seen in people under age 40. The problem is often linked to a gene defect called JAK2V617F. The cause of this gene defect is unknown.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Trouble breathing when lying down
Full feeling in the left upper abdomen (due to enlarged spleen)
Itchiness, especially after a warm bath
Red skin coloring, especially of the face
Shortness of breath
Symptoms of blood clots in veins near the skin surface (phlebitis)
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Bluish skin color
Red skin spots
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You may also have the following tests:
Call your health care provider if symptoms of polycythemia vera develop.
Kremyanskaya M, Najfeld V, Mascarenhas J, Hoffman R. The polycythemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, Anastasi J, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 67.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Chronic Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Treatment: Polycythemia Vera. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified December 3, 2014. Available at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/myeloproliferative/HealthProfessional/page3. Accessed March 3, 2015.
Rita Nanda, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology, University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.