Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Primary thrombocythemia

 

Definition

Primary thrombocythemia is the overproduction of platelets without a known cause. Platelets are essential for blood clotting.

Blood clotting
Alternative Names

Essential thrombocythemia; Essential thrombocytosis

Causes

Primary thrombocythemia is a disorder that slowly progresses. It is caused by too much growth of a type of cell that is used to make blood cells. Although the platelets are mostly affected, the red blood cells and white blood cells may also be involved.

The disease is in the same family of disorders as:

Usually it affects people in middle age. It can also be seen in younger patients, especially females under age 40.

People with this condition make too many platelets and may have a problem with blood clots (thrombosis). Because these platelets do not work well, bleeding is also a common problem.

Symptoms
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, urinary tract, or skin
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Bloody stools
  • Dizziness
  • Easy bruising
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (rare)
  • Headache
  • Nosebleeds (epistaxis)
  • Numbness of the hands or feet
  • Prolonged bleeding from surgical procedures or tooth extraction
  • Ulcers on the fingers or toes

The condition may even cause strokes in some people.

Signs and tests

This condition is often detected on blood tests done for other reasons, before there are any symptoms.

A physical exam may show an enlarged spleen or liver.

Other tests may include:

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome varies. Most people go long periods of time without complications and have a normal life expectancy. In a very small minority of patients, complications from hemorrhage and thrombosis lead to death.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider:

Complications
Treatments

If a patient has life-threatening complications, a procedure to remove platelets directly from the blood (platelet pheresis) can rapidly decrease the platelet count.

Long-term use of medications to decrease the platelet count can reduce both bleeding and clotting complications. The most commonly used medications include hydroxyurea, interferon-alpha, or anagrelide. In patients who have a tendency to clot, aspirin may help decrease clotting episodes.

Many patients do not need any treatment. However, the health care provider should monitor their condition.

Prevention

References

Tefferi A. Myeloproliferative disorders: Essential thrombocythemia and primary myelofibrosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 177.


Review Date: 3/2/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
Patient Portal
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access
Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000    |