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Polycythemia

What Is Polycythemia?

Patient Comments
  • Polycythemia is an increased number of red blood cells in the blood. In polycythemia, the levels of hemoglobin (Hgb), hematocrit (Hct), or the red blood cell (RBC) count may be elevated when measured in the complete blood count (CBC), as compared to normal.
  • Hemoglobin levels greater than 16.5 g/dL (grams per deciliter) in women and greater than 18.5 g/dL in men suggest polycythemia. In terms of hematocrit, a value greater than 48 in women and 52 in men is indicative of polycythemia.
  • Production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis) occurs in the bone marrow and is regulated in a series of specific steps.
  • One of the important enzymes regulating this process is called erythropoietin (Epo). The majority of Epo is produced and released by the kidneys, and a smaller portion is released by the liver.
  • Polycythemia can result from internal problems with the production of red blood cells. This is termed primary polycythemia. If polycythemia is caused due to another underlying medical problem, it is referred to as secondary polycythemia.
  • Most cases of polycythemia are secondary and are caused by another medical condition. Primary polycythemias are relatively rare.
  • One percent to five percent of newborns can have polycythemia (neonatal polycythemia).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016

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Blood test

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

What are Values for Components of Complete Blood Count?

The following lists some of the typical values of the components of the complete blood count:

  • WBC (white blood cell) count signifies the number of white blood cells in the blood and usually ranges between 4,300 and 10,800 cells per cubic millimeter (cmm).
  • RBC (red blood cell) count measures the number of red blood cells in a volume of blood and usually ranges between 4.2 to 5.9 million cells per cmm.
  • Hemoglobin (Hbg) measures the amount of the hemoglobin molecule in a volume of blood and normally is 13.8 to 17.2 grams per deciliter (g/dL) for men and 12.1 to 15.1 g/dL for women.
  • Hematocrit (Hct) signifies the percentage of the whole blood occupied by red blood cells and usually ranges between 45%-52% for men and 37%-48% for women.
  • Red cell distribution width (RDW)
  • Platelet count
  • Mean platelet volume (MPV)
  • Platelet count
  • Mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is the measurement of the average size or volume of a typical red blood cell in a blood sample and usually ranges between 80 to 100 femtoliters (a fraction of one-millionth of a liter).
  • Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) measures the amount of hemoglobin in an average red blood cell and usually ranges between 27 to 32 picograms


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