Overview

Polycythemia vera (pol-e-sy-THEE-me-uh VEER-uh) is a slow-growing blood cancer in which your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. These excess cells thicken your blood, slowing its flow. They also cause complications, such as blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Polycythemia vera isn't common. It usually develops slowly, and you might have it for years without knowing. Often the condition is found during a blood test done for another reason.

Without treatment, polycythemia vera can be life-threatening. But proper medical care can help ease signs, symptoms and complications of this disease. Over time, in some cases there's a risk of progressing to more-serious blood cancers, such as myelofibrosis or acute leukemia.