Polycythemia is a medical condition that causes excessive amounts of red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cell (Thrombocytes) and platelet (Platelet Derivatives) to accumulate in the blood.
PVs can lead to anemia, heart attack and high blood pressure. Polycythemia is an inherited disorder that usually results from a genetic predisposition in humans. People with familial history of polycythemia have an increased risk of developing the condition. PV is usually diagnosed by a blood test.
Polycythemia vera is a very rare, life-long, painful (lifetime) condition in which the heart-lungs fail to expand to accommodate more blood volume (plasma) or the body becomes unable to produce adequate amounts of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and white blood cell (Thrombocytes) to compensate for the increased fluid content. Thrombocytes are responsible for carrying nutrients from the blood into the muscles and bone tissues.
Polycythemia can occur due to any of the following reasons: decreased amount of red blood cell production; normal plasma concentration but an increased platelet count; abnormal heart rate; an inadequate supply of nutrients; a low level of platelet; impaired production of blood platelet; low levels of blood platelet; and poor absorption of iron and magnesium. The presence of an increased number of platelets in the blood stream is associated with severe hyperthyroidism, anemia and chronic diarrhea. However, polycythemia can also occur due to hematologic malignancies such as leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and skin cancer.
Polycythemia can be diagnosed by measuring the plasma and red blood cell volume at regular intervals. An echocardiogram or coronary angiography may be used to assess coronary blockage and function of the heart. In some cases, an electrocardiogram may help diagnose heart failure and arrhythmia.
Treatment options for patients with PV can range from medications, vitamins and minerals, and physical therapy. In addition, surgery, in the form of a heart valve replacement or aortic valve replacement is sometimes performed to improve the functioning of the heart valves.
Because PV is not a contagious, no one person can contract the disease. There are no known genetic or environmental factors that are associated with the development of the disease. A person with the condition should not be genetically susceptible.
Genetic counseling can be helpful in identifying possible genetic markers of susceptibility to polycythemia. However, it is also important to understand that although the disease is inherited, lifestyle and diet can play a major role in its diagnosis. If an individual in your family has polycythemia, it is not necessary to assume that your own symptoms will cause you to develop the condition.
There are no medications or vaccines available to prevent or treat the disease. However, there are lifestyle changes that may reduce the symptoms and progression of the disease.
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent polycythemia. A balanced diet, proper sleep and regular exercise can provide a healthy lifestyle in which polycythemia is prevented.
A diet that is high in protein and low in fat is best. Some foods that should be included in the diet include fish, beans, nuts and seeds. These foods are low in saturated fats and cholesterol and high in fiber.
Many people with polycythemia also need to avoid dairy products. Low-fat or non-dairy yogurt may help reduce symptoms. and may be able to prevent the progression of the disease.
Some studies suggest that vitamin C supplements may help reduce the severity of polycythemia. Vitamin E and zinc also may be effective.
Some research indicates that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates may also reduce symptoms. Foods to avoid include animal products, refined sugars and foods containing caffeine.
Exercise on a regular basis may also help. It can increase circulation and promote better oxygen flow throughout the body.
For those with polycythemia, it is important to note that the condition may not progress to the point of death if not treated. Medications and lifestyle changes may help to slow down the progression of the disease.