Myeloproliferative Blood Disorders

The term “Myeloproliferative” is often used to describe blood disorders of bone marrow in which there is rapid multiplication of blood-producing cells within the bone marrow that tend to develop, reproduce and then overtake normal healthy blood cells.

Usually the blood disorders in this classification are inherited, which means that somewhere in your family history you can locate someone who had the same or similar blood disorder. You may be predisposed to the same blood disorder but not actually come down with symptoms of the disorder but then a child of your may develop symptoms.

There are three major myeloproliferative disorders including polycythemia vera, myelofibrosis, and also thrombocythemia.

The characteristic of myeloproliferative disorders, as the name eludes to, is that there is a proliferation of blood-producing cells that is noncancerous, in other words benign, when the proliferation begins. A small percentage of individuals with the disorder will go on to develop malignant or cancerous conditions such as leukemia.

Polycythemia Vera

Under the Major Myeloproliferative Disorders Category we have polycythemia vera which is characterized by increasing number of the cells within the marrow that produce the blood cells called stem cells as well as an increase in the Red Blood Cell (RBC) count and an increase in the number of white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets too.

Myelofibrocis is another disorder within this group and it is characterized by an excess of fibrous tissue within the bone marrow, a misshapen of the red blood cells, an increase in immature red and white blood cells or a decrease in the number of red blood cells which will then lead to anemia.

Lastly, thrombocythemia is when there is a increase in the number of cells that produce what will be the platelets (megakaryocytes) and then an increase in those platelet counts.

When individuals have myelofibrosis they feel very fatigued and weak with frequent infections. They may experience easily bleeding. If their doctor conducts blood tests or a bone marrow biopsy the diagnosis of myelofibrosis will be made. There is no cure for myelofibrosis but there are treatments including medications that can lessen the severity of the anemia and to help fight off infections.

Individuals with polycythemia vera also feel fatigued and weak but also light-headed and short of breath. Blood tests can reveal the culprit. Doctors can perform a phlebotomy to remove the excess red blood cells. When individuals have this disorder not only does the marrow produce excessive amounts of blood cells but the spleen and liver can too.

The median age for the diagnosis of polycythemia vera is 60. Individuals can have the disorder for years before feeling any symptoms. Sometimes they have other complications such as gout, kidney stones, or stomach ulcers. Typically the diagnosis is discovered while doing a blood test for other reasons like physicals.

Thrombocythemia

Individuals with thrombocythemia often complain of cold hands, feet or fingertips or they may feel a tingling in their hands and feet. The bone marrow of individuals with thrombocythemia produces too many platelets. The excessive amount of platelets in the bloodstream can lead to blood clots, which can lead to dangerous situations like heart attack or stroke when the blood clots block major arteries leading to the brain or heart.

When a blood vessel is blocked that is when the individual will feel a tingling, cold fingertips, chest pain, vision abnormalities, headaches or a general weakness or dizziness.