Diseases and Conditions

Essential thrombocythemia


Essential thrombocythemia can lead to a variety of potentially life-threatening complications.

Strokes and mini-strokes

If a blood clot occurs in the arteries that supply the brain, it may cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA (mini-stroke) is a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain.

Signs and symptoms of both a stroke and a TIA develop suddenly and include:

  • Weakness or numbness of your face, arm or leg, usually on one side of your body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Blurred, double or decreased vision

Seek medical attention immediately if you develop signs or symptoms of a stroke.

Heart attacks

Less commonly, essential thrombocythemia can cause clots in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain extending to your shoulder, arm, back, teeth or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating or clammy skin

Seek medical attention immediately if you develop signs or symptoms of a heart attack.

Bone marrow problems, including leukemia

Rarely, essential thrombocythemia may progress to these potentially life-threatening diseases:

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia. This is a type of white blood cell and bone marrow cancer that progresses rapidly.
  • Myelofibrosis. This progressive disorder results in bone marrow scarring, leading to severe anemia and enlargement of your liver and spleen.

Pregnancy complications

Most women who have essential thrombocythemia have normal, healthy pregnancies. But uncontrolled thrombocythemia can lead to miscarriage and other complications. Your risk of complications may be reduced with regular checkups and medication, so be sure to have your doctor regularly monitor your condition.