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Polycythemia Vera Symptoms and Diagnosis

Possible signs of polycythemia vera include headaches and a feeling of fullness below the ribs on the left side.

Polycythemia vera often does not cause early symptoms. It is sometimes found during a routine blood test. Symptoms may occur as the number of blood cells increases. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  • A feeling of pressure or fullness below the ribs on the left side
  • Headaches
  • Double vision or seeing dark or blind spots that come and go
  • Itching all over the body, especially after being in warm or hot water
  • Reddened face that looks like a blush or sunburn
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss for no known reason

Special blood tests are used to diagnose polycythemia vera. In addition to a complete blood count, bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, and cytogenetic analysis, a serum erythropoietin test is used to diagnose polycythemia vera. In this test, a sample of blood is checked for the level of erythropoietin (a hormone that stimulates new red blood cells to be made).