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Signs and Symptoms

Essential thrombocythemia (ET) is often detected during a routine blood test before an individual has any symptoms.

The signs and symptoms of ET are linked to high platelet counts that cause the development of a thrombus (blood clot). The symptoms include:

  • Pain, swelling and redness in the arms or legs (due to deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that develops in a vein deep inside the body)
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain and cough (due to a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs)
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea (due to a heart attack caused by a blood clot)

If a blood clot occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the brain, it may cause a temporary loss of blood flow to part of the brain. This can cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), with signs and symptoms that include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Slurred speech

In a small number of patients with ET who have an extremely high platelet count, the disease may cause bleeding. Signs and symptoms of bleeding may include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Nosebleeds
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding
  • Bloody stools
  • Blood in the urine

Other signs and symptoms of ET include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Night sweats
  • Pain, redness and swelling in the hands or feet (called “erythromelalgia”), caused by diminished blood flow
  • Enlarged spleen

Symptoms of ET can be troublesome. Reducing symptoms is a key goal of treatment. Therefore, it is important to take an active role in monitoring your ET symptoms. Careful tracking of your symptoms can help you and your doctor better understand how to manage and modify your care over time. View LLS's free booklet Myeloproliferative Neoplasms to find a Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Symptom Assessment Form. 

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