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Polycythemia Vera

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What is polycythemia vera?

Polycythemia vera (PV) is a condition that causes your bone marrow to produce too many red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen throughout the body. Too many white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets may also be produced. The extra blood cells make your blood thicker than normal. Blood that is too thick cannot flow easily, so less oxygen is delivered to your body's tissues. Left untreated, PV is life-threatening. PV is usually caused by a gene mutation (change). Your risk for PV increases if you are male or older than 50 years.

What are the signs and symptoms of PV?

Signs and symptoms develop slowly, over many years. You may have any of the following:

How is PV diagnosed?

PV is often found during tests for other conditions, or to find the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath. Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they started. Tell him about all medicines you are taking. Also tell him about any medical conditions you have. You may need any of the following:

How is PV treated?

PV cannot be cured. It will always need to be managed. The goal of treatment is improve symptoms and reduce the risk for problems such as blood clots.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to prevent blood clots?

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

Call 911 for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.