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Some people have few troublesome symptoms of polycythemia vera (PV). Your diagnosis may come as a result of a routine physical exam and blood test.

Some PV symptoms may occur because of too many red cells, which can make the blood more viscous (thick), hampering blood flow. See your doctor if you're troubled by any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • headaches
  • exaggerated sweating
  • ringing in the ears
  • vision problems, such as blurred vision or blind spots
  • dizziness or vertigo (a severe spinning feeling)
  • itchy skin called "pruritus," especially after warm baths or showers
  • a reddened or purplish appearance of the skin, especially on the palms, ear lobes, nose and cheeks
  • a burning sensation in the feet
  • peptic ulcers which can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding
  • an enlarged spleen, which may cause discomfort, a feeling of fullness or a "dragging" feeling on the upper left side of your stomach
  • angina or congestive heart failure, which may be a harmful effect of the viscous blood and the platelets' tendency to clump in the coronary blood vessels, leading to thrombi (clots)
  • gout, a painful joint inflammation caused by increased levels of uric acid (associated with PV)
  • bleeding or bruising, usually minor

Patients with PV may have high platelet counts, which can contribute to blood clot formation. Underlying vascular disease, commonly found in older persons with PV, can increase the risk of clotting complications. The clots may cause serious problems, such as stroke, heart attack, deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

Blood clots occur in about 30 percent of patients before PV is diagnosed. Forty to 60 percent of PV patients may have blood clots during their first 10 years after diagnosis.

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last updated on Thursday, June 28, 2012
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