What Is Polycythaemia?
Polycythaemia literally means "many cells in the blood", and is a medical term now applied to several conditions where there are too many red blood cells or "erythrocytes" in the blood.
This is a rare disease occurring in both sexes, slightly more common in men and people of Jewish ancestry, and usually comes on in middle age. The cause is unknown. There is over activity of the bone marrow blood forming tissue, with extension of red marrow throughout the long bones.
Estimates suggest that around five people in every million are affected. Typically the onset of the disease is sometime after the age of fifty, with a slow but persistent progression. In some cases, the person may go on to develop acute or chronic myeloid leukaemia, or bone marrow failure (myelofibrosis) due to replacement of the marrow by scar tissue.
Other risks of the condition include stroke and heart attack, because the blood is thicker than normal and prone to forming clots. There is no cure but treatment can control symptoms. In many cases, a person diagnosed with Polycythaemia Vera can expect to live for more than fifteen years. Other names for this condition include Primary Polycythaemia and Vaquez' disease.