I was living in a home that had a slow leak of carbon monoxide poisoning and was never sick with this until we were exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Is there a correlation between carbon monoxide poisoning and polycythemia vera?
Polycythemia vera (PCV), also known as primary polycythemia, is usually caused by a change (mutation) in the JAK2 gene. This change is usually not inherited and in most cases, mutates during a person's lifetime (called a somatic mutation).
However, another type of polycythemia, called secondary polycythemia, is associated with some environmental exposures including carbon monoxide. Secondary polycythemia is not related to the JAK2 gene and is caused by long-term exposure to low oxygen levels. A lack of oxygen over a long period can cause the body to make more of a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). High levels of EPO can cause the body to make more red blood cells than normal, leading to the thicker blood that occurs in PCV.
Several factors can lead the development of secondary polycythemia, including having severe heart or lung disease; smoking; spending long hours at high altitudes; or being exposed to high carbon monoxide levels at home or in the workplace.
Secondary polycythemia can sometimes be cured, if the underlying cause is known and can be stopped, controlled, or cured.
Last updated: 3/17/2014
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