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Bleeding and Clotting Disorders

Polycythemia Vera in 18 Year Old

05/31/2011

Question:

My 18 year old son is being seen by a family physician for an elevated red blood cell count. It is only slightly elevated, so he may just lean toward a higher average than most. However, he has had a number of other symptoms for years: abdominal pain, sensitivity to changes in temperature (with the hands & feet becoming blotchy red), fatigue, insomnia and asthma, to name the worst symptoms. I was told by one oncologist he saw that "if he was 70 years old then I would know what is wrong with him." The same doctor told me that someone my son`s age would not have polycythemia vera. How common is this disorder in youth and what are the main symptoms and tests? Thank you!!

Answer:

This disorder is somewhat rare in younger adults such as your son. There are a lot of additional factors that need to be considered in evaluating someone with an elevated hemoglobin or RBC count. I would encourage you to talk to your son's physician and consider a referral to a hematologist with experience with these blood disorders. Many times one can be found at a university hospital that is near by.

I hope this helps, but it is not possible to give a more detailed answer without knowing more of the specifics of your son's case and being able to talk with and examine him.

For more information:

Go to the Bleeding and Clotting Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Spero R Cataland, MD Spero R Cataland, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University