Q:

What effect does a high red blood cell count have on the body?

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Quick Answer

A high red blood cell count, or polycythemia, may lead to easy bruising or bleeding, the formation of blood clots, pain in joints or bones, dizziness, fatigue and abdominal pain, states eMedicineHealth. In cases where another medical disorder is causing the polycythemia, the individual may only experience symptoms relating to the disorder.

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Full Answer

Both primary polycythemia and secondary polycythemia can cause a high red blood cell count, notes eMedicineHealth. With primary polycythemia, there is a problem with the internal production of red blood cells in the body.

The two primary polycythemia disorders are polycythemia vera (PV) and primary familial and congenital polycythemia (PFCP), states eMedicineHealth. Genetic mutation causes both. The treatment of primary polycythemia typically includes hydration and the avoidance of iron supplements, which can stimulate red blood cell production. Those who have splenomegaly, or enlargement of the spleen, may need to avoid contact sports. In some cases, patients may need bloodletting for the maintenance of their health, and medications may be required to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Disorders that cause secondary polycythemia include liver and uterine cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea, according to eMedicineHealth. Typically, the treatment of secondary polycythemia involves correcting and managing the underlying disorder causing it. Aspirin may also be recommended for both primary and secondary polycythemia to lower the risk of clotting.

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