How Do You Know If You Have Polycythemia?


Quick Answer

A person knows she has polycythemia when results come back from blood tests, according to WebMD. The symptoms of polycythemia are too nonspecific to let someone know that she has this disease and no other.

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Full Answer

The symptoms of polycythemia include fatigue, double vision, night sweats and a reddened face that looks like the patient has been sunburnt, states WebMD. Other symptoms are dizziness and weakness, itching all over especially after being in hot water, shortness of breath, joint swelling, and pain. There is also tingling of the extremities. In some patients, the spleen is enlarged.

If a patient presents with these symptoms, the doctor conducts a physical examination and performs tests, including a complete blood count, claims WebMD. Elevated levels of any type of blood cells are a sign of polycythemia. The doctor also gives the patient a blood smear, which checks for other diseases that accompany polycythemia. He also gives the patient an EPO, or erythropoietin test, states MedlinePlus. EPO is a hormone that lets the body know to make more red blood cells. People who have polycythemia have abnormally low levels of EPO, as WebMD explains.

Polycythemia is dangerous because it can cause blood clots, notes WebMD. These clots can contribute to a heart attack or a stroke.

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