Polycythemia refers to an increase in the number of red blood cells. It is associated with increased blood thickening and an increased hematocrit and thus causes circulatory disorders and various accompanying symptoms.


What is polyglobulia?

Polycythemia is an increase in the number of red blood cells. It is usually the result of another disease and can be divided into two forms. See polyhobbies for Meanings of Peroxisomal Disease.

On the one hand there is the primary and on the other hand the secondary form. The distinction can only be made by a medical professional as the symptoms are similar. Polycythemia is similar to polycythemia but is far more common. Polycythemia can be treated well nowadays and prevention is also unproblematic.


Polycythemia is usually caused by a lack of oxygen, as a result of which the erythrocyte content is increased. The effect can therefore occur relatively quickly, especially when staying at high altitudes. The cause is an increased production of the hormone erythropoietin in the kidneys.

The hormone is the growth factor of red blood cells. It can be said that any condition that results in a prolonged lack of oxygen leads to polycythemia. The organism triggers the effect itself in order to ensure the supply of sufficient oxygen.

The symptoms are favored by clogged vessels. The cause can therefore often be found in an unhealthy lifestyle. People who do little exercise and use caffeine and cigarettes favor polycythemia. It also favors diseases of the heart and blood vessels, which often result in blood thickening.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Polycythemia causes dizziness, ringing in the ears and recurring headaches. The skin of those affected itches all over the body, with the itching becoming worse on contact with water. Occasionally there is also stabbing pain or sensory disturbances. Some patients also experience nerve pain, which in turn can result in restricted movement.

Externally, polycythemia can be seen in the severe reddening of the face and the blue coloring of the mucous membranes as a result of the circulatory disorders. The thickening of the blood also leads to shortness of breath, heart cramps and pain in the limbs. High blood pressure increases the risk of thrombosis, stroke and other serious complications.

If polycythemia is not treated, the disturbed blood flow can lead to unconsciousness, a stroke or a heart attack. Hearing problems can also occur. Chronic high blood pressure also affects vision, the immune system and hormonal balance.

In the long term, untreated polycythemia leads to organ damage. As a result of the permanent undersupply of the brain, certain areas of the brain die off, which can result in irreversible neurological damage. In the worst case, an increase in red blood cells can lead to death. With comprehensive treatment, symptoms disappear once the blood returns to its normal thickness.

Diagnosis & History

Polycythemia is manifested by several symptoms that are crucial for the diagnosis. In this way, the doctor can talk to the person concerned to determine whether headaches, temporary shortness of breath or heart cramps occur as a result of the thickening of the blood.

If there is already a suspicion, the anamnesis can be used to make an accurate diagnosis relatively quickly. However, a prerequisite is a measurement of the blood pressure. In this way it can be determined whether a polyglobule is actually present.

The doctor can also use other examination methods. He checks the lung function, carries out a kidney sonography or carries out an ultrasound examination of the heart. X-rays of the lungs can also provide information about possible polycythemia. If the doctor treating you does not come to a conclusion from the tests mentioned, polycythemia must be assumed. In this case, a bone marrow puncture is performed.

The course of the polyglobule can look very different. Mountain climbers, for example, often suffer from the symptoms, but usually have normal blood values ​​within a few days after the descent. Here the course of the disease is harmless and late effects are not to be expected. However, if the thickening of the blood occurs as a result of a chronic disease, there are far-reaching side effects.

Affected people can have problems with their vessels, suffer from thrombosis and generally feel very unwell. It also puts a lot more strain on the heart, which increases the risk of heart disease. Finally, polycythemia can also limit mental abilities.


Due to the polycythemia, those affected usually suffer from a significant thickening of the blood. This leads to serious circulatory disorders, so that in the worst case those affected can also lose consciousness and die from these symptoms. Likewise, the risk of a stroke or a heart attack increases significantly due to polycythemia.

Thrombosis can also occur and make everyday life even more difficult for those affected. The lack of oxygen also causes the skin to turn blue. If the undersupply continues, the internal organs and the brain will be significantly damaged. This damage is usually irreversible. Hearing problems or headaches can also occur as a result of this disease. The treatment of polycythemia depends on the underlying disease.

It is generally not possible to universally predict whether complications may arise. Those affected may also need surgery. In severe cases, a heart transplant may also be necessary to fully treat the polycythemia symptoms. The patient’s life expectancy may also be limited by the polycythemia.

When should you go to the doctor?

Polycythemia should always be examined by a doctor. In the worst case, this disease can lead to the death of the person affected. Self-healing usually does not occur. The doctor should be consulted for polycythemia if severe itching occurs without any particular reason and lasts for a longer period of time.

The itching can occur all over the body and significantly reduce the patient’s quality of life. Sensitivity disorders and severe headaches also occur all over the body. Restrictions in movement or severe body aches also often indicate polycythemia and must be examined by a doctor. Furthermore, the disease can also lead to a heart attack or a stroke, in which case an emergency doctor must be called immediately or the hospital must be visited.

Polycythemia can primarily be diagnosed by a general practitioner . However, further treatment is carried out by a specialist and depends on the exact severity of the symptoms. In many cases, the life expectancy of the patient is limited by the polycythemia.

Treatment & Therapy

Depending on whether it is primary or secondary polycythemia, other measures must be taken. The secondary form can be due to either obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure.

The latter disease is treated with the help of various drugs such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and diuretics. A pacemaker can also be used. A heart transplant is also an option if drug treatment does not work. The polycythemia usually disappears as the blood thickness decreases.

If the underlying disease cannot be treated, bloodletting therapy can be initiated. Blood is taken from the patient at regular intervals and fluid is introduced intravenously. This is to reduce blood thickening. The flow properties of the blood can also improve significantly as a result of the treatment.


Polycythemia can be prevented well. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and a balanced diet can greatly minimize the risk. In general, it is important to drink a lot to prevent blood thickening.

Those who also avoid alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can avoid polycythemia. Toxins and pollutants that accumulate in the veins and vessels promote the disease, which is why regular detoxification is advisable. Finally, a regular check-up for polycythemia can only be positive.

Polycythemia cannot be prevented. However, the chances of recovery increase if the disease is detected early. Therefore, you should also have your bone marrow examined at regular intervals. People who have to accept larger differences in altitude at work can counteract this by taking medication that thins the blood.


In most cases, those affected with polycythemia have only very few follow-up measures available, although in some cases these can even be completely limited. Therefore, the patient should consult a doctor at the first symptoms and signs of the disease in order to prevent further deterioration of the symptoms. In most cases, the polycythemia cannot heal itself, so ideally an early diagnosis and subsequent treatment should take place.

Most of those affected are dependent on taking various medications for polycythemia. The patient should always ensure that the medication is taken regularly and that the dosage is correct in order to relieve the symptoms permanently and, above all, correctly. Regular check-ups by a doctor are also very important in order to identify and treat further damage to the internal organs.

In general, a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet also has a positive effect on the further course of the disease in the case of polycythemia. The doctor can also create a nutrition plan for the patient. This disease may reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.

You can do that yourself

If polycythemia occurs as a result of a chronic disease, both the polycythemia itself and the underlying disease must be treated urgently. Polycythemia alone can otherwise lead to long-term organ damage and even be fatal if left untreated. Therefore, close medical treatment is urgently recommended. The aim is to heal the disease underlying the polycythemia and thus also the polycythemia itself.

The patient can effectively support this with lifestyle measures. Those affected should exercise regularly and move around a lot overall. Patients with polycythemia should neither smoke nor drink alcohol. Coffee is also said to have an unfavorable effect on the disease and should therefore be avoided. Purification and detoxification measures are recommended for polycythemia patients, because it is the toxins and pollutants that accumulate in the vessels and bloodstream and thus promote the disease. Regular sauna sessions or steam baths gently detoxify the organism. Doctors or naturopaths experienced in naturopathic medicine give further recommendations for drainage and detoxification.

It is important to allow the body to rest during the detoxification process. This includes getting enough sleep at set times. A healthy diet rich in vitamins and fiber also helps with detoxification. Patients should avoid dark meat and eat more fruit and vegetables.