Polycythemia is a condition in which the hemocrit, or red blood cell volume, is elevated. It can be caused by either n increase in red blood cells or a decrease in plasma. There are two kinds of polycythemia, primary and secondary. In primary (aka absolute) polycythemia, the increase in red blood cells is due to a process in the bone marrow, but can also be a reaction to chronically low oxygen or rarely, a malignancy. Symptoms include headaches, vertigo, itching, formation of blood clots, and an enlarged spleen or liver. Primary polycythemia is usually congenital and hereditary. Secondary polycythemia is caused by a natural or artificial increase in erythropoietin and therefore erythrocytes in the blood. This condition usually resolves once the underlying cause is treated. Causes can include reactions to changes in altitude, high testosterone, blood letting, or be a complication of other conditions like heart issues or COPD. Treatments include increasing body fluids and blood letting, as well as medicines to treat symptoms. Polycythemia is represented by the red awareness ribbon and awareness products are available in the Unchargeables Shop.
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