In medicine, a complication is a medical problem that occurs during the course of a disease or after a procedure or treatment. Possible complications of PV include:
- Thrombus (blood clot). The extra blood cells in people with PV may cause the blood to be thicker than normal. As a result, harmful blood clots may form and block the flow of blood through arteries and veins. Blood clots that form in an artery can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. They can also form in the deep veins of the arms or legs, a condition called “deep vein thrombosis.” If a blood clot from a deep vein breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it can become lodged in the lungs, blocking blood flow, which can be life-threatening. This is called a “pulmonary embolism.”
- Enlarged spleen. The spleen is an organ located on the left side of the upper abdomen, near the stomach and below the rib cage. It filters the blood, stores blood cells and destroys old blood cells. In some people with PV, the spleen may become abnormally enlarged because it is working harder to manage the increased number of blood cells. An enlarged spleen can cause discomfort or pain in the abdomen. When the spleen pushes up against the stomach, it may also cause a feeling of being full along with a decreased appetite.
- Other blood diseases. In some cases, PV may progress to other related blood diseases including myelofibrosis (MF), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and, less commonly, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free booklets: