Do you itch after taking a warm bath or shower? Do you experience frequent headaches, dizziness, fatigue and excessive sweating? Polycythemia , also referred to as thick blood, could be the culprit behind your symptoms. Thick, sluggish blood is not an uncommon malady (typically afflicting the elderly), and can be successfully treated with an age old treatment.
Polycythemia occurs when bone marrow shifts into high gear and produces an abundance of red and white blood cells and platelets, with the abundance of red blood cells wreaking the most havoc. The cause of this sudden increased production is unknown , but the results is thick, sluggish blood which can cause blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, loss of energy, swelling in extremities, excessive sweating and itching after bathing. You may also experience a feeling of fullness or bloating in the upper abdominal region due to an enlarged spleen.
The thickened blood also causes life threatening blood clots to form in arteries and veins.
Treatment for Polycythemia
The initial treatment is blood removal . Removing blood from the body as part of treatment for ailments is an ancient medical ritual. While certainly not done in the same fashion as antiquated blood letting, periodically removing blood from the body is the starting treatment for thick blood. Drawing blood out of the vein reduces the number of blood cells and eliminates (or greatly reduces) the symptoms. How often blood removal is needed is determined by the severity of your polycythemia.
If blood removal does not successfully control the blood count and assuage the thick blood, medication will be prescribed. Either treatment option will continue for life, which polycythemia patients can live 10 years or longer after diagnoses and with proper treatment.
Testing for Polycythemia
A visit to your family doctor with the above mentioned symptoms should lead to a simple blood test to check for a elevated red blood cell count, followed by a bone marrow test to confirm a suspected case of polycythemia. Bone marrow is the place where all blood cells are made and a bone marrow sample is the only way to determine the presence of the over production of red and white blood cells and blood platelets.
Risk factors age mainly age related, typically occurring in those over the age of 60. Men also develop thick blood more often than women, and a family history of polycythemia also increases the risk.