Erythrocyte Disorders

In primary absolute polycythemia, there is no elevated erythropoietin stimulus even when the marrow stem cells are proliferating. This condition is an effect of the presence of a benign tumor. The red cells are proliferating resulting to a dominant amount of eryhthrocytes in the blood over other components. In such cases, the normal or elevated tissue supply of oxygen suppresses EPO secretion.

Polycythemia Vera

Sometimes called polycythemia rubra vera, polycythemia vera is another myeloproliferative condition which is characterized by an increased viscosity of the blood. The thickened blood sluggishly flows through the small vessels. Coagulation within these vessels is predisposed by this event especially in the kidneys, spleen and liver. Blockage of the vessels results to nutrient deprivation and tissue destruction.

Relative Polycythemia

With relative polycythemia, hematocrit levels are increased (information about hematocrit discussed below), however, the total number of red blood cells is just normal. The plasma deficiency that produces this state may be the result of the following conditions:

  • Generalized dehydration
  • Extensive skin burns
  • Pronounced diarrhea or vomiting
  • Diuresis
  • Heavy smoking – smoker’s polycythemia.
  • Stress – stress polycythemia. Typically, hard-driving male sufferers are also at high risk for heart and brain vascular diseases.

Points to Remember

  • The major problem in cases of polycythemia or excessive red blood cells is the increased viscosity of the blood, which causes it to flow sluggishly in the body and worst impairing the circulation.
  • The major problem in cases of anemia or decreased red blood cell count or hemoglobin levels is the decreased in blood viscosity, which results to thinning of the blood and its flowing rapidly into the vessels.


Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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