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Signs and symptoms

The severity of a MPN varies from patient to patient. The condition may be acute and life-threatening or it may be very subtle, existing for years before being diagnosed, frequently during a routine physical examination. While each condition has its own set of symptoms, they also have many in common, including:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) - cells accumulate in the spleen because it makes blood cells and because it filters old or abnormal cells out of the bloodstream. This causes the spleen to swell, which can cause abdominal discomfort.
  • Bleeding and bruising, due to insufficient and/or abnormal platelets
  • Night sweats
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Pallor due to anaemia (when red blood cells are decreased not increased)
  • Frequent infections

In someone with polycythaemia vera, the excess number of RBCs produced increases the volume and thickness (viscosity) of the blood. This can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, visual distortion, itching, and paraesthesia (numbness and tingling). Sometimes the excessive RBCs may lead to complications, such as: stomach ulcers, kidney stones, venous thrombosis (blood clots), stroke, and rarely, to congestive heart failure.

Primary Myelofibrosis, which occurs most frequently in those over 60 years of age, often causes no symptoms early in the course of the disease - about 1/3 of those who are diagnosed are asymptomatic. Those patients who do have symptoms may experience fatigue, shortness of breath and splenomegaly. Fibrous tissue eventually fills the bone marrow, reducing the production of all blood cells. Anaemia may become severe with this MPN.

Most people with essential thrombocythaemia are asymptomatic, but some develop thrombosis or haemorrhage because of increased numbers of dysfunctional platelets. This may cause tingling in the hands and feet, headaches, weakness, dizziness, nosebleeds and easy bruising.


Last Review Date: July 23, 2015