What causes high rbc?

Do you feel like you’re turning into a superhero, but not in a good way? Do your veins seem more prominent than usual or do you always wake up with a slight headache? It’s quite possible that your blood is packing more punch than necessary. In other words, you have high levels of red blood cells (RBC). Here we will delve into this condition and why it happens.

What are Red Blood Cells Anyway?

Before going dizzy on high RBC matters, let’s understand what they actually are. Red blood cells or erythrocytes carry oxygen to all parts of the body via hemoglobin molecules attached to them. So, when there is a shortage of iron leading to low hemoglobin which leads to less red blood cell production – that causes anemia.

On the other hand, if your bone marrow produces too many red blood cells without any apparent cause, then it could signify high RBC count.

Erythrocytosis vs Polycythemia

Elevated levels of RBCs can either be primary polycythemia also known as polycythemia vera (PV) or secondary erythrocytosis which may have different underlying conditions such as COPD, obesity, genetics, etc..

Polycythemia refers directly to increased counts arising from some genetic malformation leading towards overproduction within bone marrows while erythrocytosis signifies elevated levels without such primary medical issues in patients.
That being said these two terms are used interchangeably so don’t get confused about this – call yourself Sherlock while tolerating these terminological paradoxes

Causes for Polycythemia PV

With PV specifically:

JAK2 Gene Mutation

It’s basically Katniss Everdeen everything pre-the-hunger-games traumatizes her and makes her even stronger! As much inspirational as underwhelming. JAK2 gene mutation is the Katnidss of high RBC count since it occurs as a result of such harsh conditions leading towards bone marrow overproduction.

Other Genetic Mutations

Yeah, We know its sounds like there is no end to genetic goof-ups but bear with us. Apart from primary PH or PV, mutations in others genes have been identified as well that lead towards excessive blood production if not monitored regularly and countered by taking preventive measures

Causes for Secondary Erythrocytosis:

These are other surprising (yet somewhat expected) factors:

Sleep Apnea

It’s all fun and games until you sleep deprived yourself so much that it starts affecting the number of red blood cells produced, can’t they just let us enjoy our beloved naps?

Kidney Impairment

Because a machine doesn’t work properly? It leads to excess secretion of EPO – injecting itself neurons! (jk this means ‘erythropoietin’ hormone release).

So which one do you belong to? Polycythemia or erythrocytosis secondary to some underlying medical condition?


If your physician thinks your hematocrit (the percentage constituted by red blood cell volume) levels look high during tests then chances are he/she might prompt performing multitude examinations starting from physical examination appearing completely normal. They might check kidney functionality via renal ultrasound, SAO2 testing etc.. perform additional genetic screening especially if PH symptoms arise opening up devious possibilities
otherwise healthy individuals may also develop polycythemia vera.

Calculation wise usually women are at higher risk than men Of developing PV however erythrocytes elevation across sexes comes without a clear gender bias established yet.
Elevation in counts does not only influence capillary formation with increasing plasma viscosity and decreasing peripheral flow rates but also indirectly increases stroke development chances along with hypertension consistency where requirements raise automatically contributing towards elevated RBC Production so it’s best not to let the counts get jacked

Now that we know more about what causes high levels of RBCs in the blood, it’s easier to watch out for symptoms and consult a healthcare provider. Don’t worry though! Just because your red blood cells are gearing up doesn’t mean you’re turning into a superhero or anything like that.

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