Our consultants diagnose and treat polycaethymia and associated conditions using advanced testing and technology

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Polycythaemia is where you have an unusually high amount of red blood cells (haemoglobin) in your blood. This makes the blood thick and sluggish and less able to travel through organs and vessels.

The condition may be a primary condition caused by a gene defect or may signify secondary issues such as circulatory or kidney problems or cancer.

Need to know

Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you to help make a diagnosis. A blood test is the most effective way to diagnose polycythaema. This shows the amount of red blood cells in your blood and the amount of room they take up. If your red blood cell count is very high, you may be sent for more blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and find underlying causes. These include genetic causes or CT scans for kidney problems.
The most effective way to reduce a high red blood cell count is a process called venesection, when a pint of blood (half a litre) is removed until the condition is under control. This usually happens weekly and then every 6-12 weeks until the red blood cell count is reduced. In certain types of polycythaemia, medication can help slow down red blood cell production and prevent clotting. Lifestyle changes can also help - losing weight, stopping smoking and managing cardiovascular disease can be effective. Your consultant will order further treatment for any underlying conditions found to be causing polycythaemia, such as kidney problems or gout.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.