Individuals suffering from polycythemia can exhibit general symptoms, such as headache, weakness, fatigue, joint pain, bruising, itching and abdominal pain, according to MedicineNet. Symptoms can be minimal to non-existent in many individuals, but secondary health issues associated with polycythemia can reveal its presence.
While polycythemia does not primarily cause many specific symptoms, secondary health issues are often associated with polycythemia, according to MedicineNet. Individuals with polycythemia frequently have other blood disorders as well. Clotting issues and excessive bleeding can be a sign of these disorders in addition to itching after bathing, joint pain, and tender, flushed palms or soles of the feet.
Chronic lung disease can also be associated with polycythemia, notes MedicineNet. Individuals with polycythemia can have a chronic cough, difficulty breathing, sleep apnea and fatigue. If an individual is suffering from kidney, liver or other specific cancers, polycythemia can cause abdominal swelling and pain, jaundice and weight loss.
Common risk factors for developing polycythemia include chronic lung disease and smoking. In addition, exposure to carbon monoxide or living at higher elevations can cause the condition to develop, according to MedicineNet. These factors all cause the body to increase the amount of blood cells in the body because of reduced oxygen availability. Individuals have also been found with a genetic propensity for the condition, and individuals with hemoglobin abnormalities are at a higher risk as well.