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Myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs, are a group of blood disorders that occur when a patient’s bone marrow does not function properly. Bone marrow is a spongy tissue where blood cells are primarily made.
Essential thrombocythemia (ET), a specific type of MPN, is a rare blood cancer where your body makes too many platelets. These platelets are called thrombocytes, which travel through the body’s blood vessels. The excess platelets your body produces may cause blood vessel blockage, bleeding problems or other issues. If you are diagnosed with ET or know someone with ET, you may have questions regarding how common it is and what you can expect in your journey.
Below are answers to common questions about ET.
What causes ET?
Although the cause of ET is unknown, researchers have found that approximately half of those living with ET have a specific genetic mutation in the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) gene.
Are there any risk factors?
A few factors can affect your chances of developing ET including age, whether you have a history of blood clots, or have diabetes or high cholesterol.
What can I expect if diagnosed?
A diagnosis of ET does not necessarily mean a shorter life expectancy. It is important that anyone diagnosed with the disease continue routine check-ups to prevent or treat any complications.
For those who are diagnosed under the age of 60 and don’t have any other risk factors including blood clots, your care team may monitor your health through periodic testing and routine visits. For those over the age of 60 who have had a history of blood clots, your care team may prescribe specific oral medications to lower platelet count and will also monitor your health with routine testing.
What are the common side effects?
Common side effects include itching, night sweats, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, blood clots and burning or throbbing pain in the feet or hands. Some people with ET have no symptoms at all and may not know they have a high platelet count until they develop a complication, such as a blood clot.
All these symptoms can all be monitored and addressed with the appropriate care. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.