Myeloproliferative disorders are diseases in which the bone marrow produces too many of one of the three types of blood cells:
red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all the tissues in the body
white blood cells, which fight infection
platelets, which makes blood clot
Thrombocythemia is a myeloproliferative disorder. It is characterized by the production of too many platelets in the bone marrow. Too many platelets make normal clotting of blood difficult.
There may be no single cause for thrombocythemia. It is believed that in most patients it is caused by mutations to megakaryocytes, the platelet-making cells in the bone marrow.
The following are the most common symptoms of thrombocythemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Increased blood clots in arteries and veins
- Bruising easily
- Bleeding from the nose, gums, and gastrointestinal tract
- Bloody stools
- Hemorrhaging after injury or surgery
- Enlarged lymph nodes
The symptoms of thrombocythemia may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for thrombocythemia may include additional blood tests to measure blood counts and elevated platelet levels. Bone marrow biopsy (the marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia) may also be necessary.
Specific treatment for thrombocythemia will be determined by your physician based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Chemotherapy (most often with hydrea, an oral chemotherapy drug
- Plateletpheresis (a procedure to remove extra platelets from the blood)
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