SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
In its early stages, polycythemia vera usually doesn't cause any signs or symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, you may experience:
- Itchiness, especially following a warm bath or shower
- Redness of your skin
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulty when you lie down
- Numbness, tingling, burning or weakness in your hands, feet, arms or legs
- A feeling of fullness or bloating in your left upper abdomen due to an enlarged spleen
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation if you have any of the signs or symptoms of polycythemia vera.
Because polycythemia vera causes your blood to thicken and slows blood flow, it increases your risk of developing blood clots. If a blood clot occurs in your head, it can cause a stroke. Seek emergency medical care if you have any of the following signs or symptoms of a stroke:
- Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of your face, arm or leg — usually on one side of your body
- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech (aphasia)
- Sudden blurred, double or decreased vision
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination
- A sudden, severe headache or an unusual headache, which may be accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness
- Confusion, or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception
- Hoffman R, et al. The polycythemias. In: Hoffman R, et al. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-443-06715-0..X5001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-443-06715-0&uniqId=230100505-56. Accessed March 1, 2011.
- Polycythemia vera. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/poly/poly_whatis.html. Accessed March 1, 2011.