Q. Does polycythemia occur due to smoking?

Answered by
Dr. Parth R Goswami
and medically reviewed by Dr.Nithila A
This is a premium question & answer published on Jun 03, 2019

Hello doctor,

I was recently diagnosed with polycythemia due to increased red cell count of 5.28x10^12/L, HCT 0.466, and hemoglobin of 161 g/l. I stopped smoking two weeks ago. Six months ago, when I started to smoke, I smoke only four cigarettes per day. Would the high red cell count be a case of secondary polycythemia, or would it be due to smoking? If so, would my red cell count decrease after a month after I have smoked? Also, in this situation, would I need to take a low dose aspirin before a long haul flight (12 hours)?

Dr. Parth R Goswami

Hematology Pathology


Welcome to the icliniq.com.

You have polycythemia. It can be primary or secondary polycythemia. The primary polycythemia is the cancer of bone marrow, which means myeloproliferative neoplasm. However your total WBC count and platelet count within range. So the chance of primary polycythemia less. You have an excess smoking history. Thus smoking can lead to secondary polycythemia, which is a pure benign condition. Smoking can decrease oxygen level in blood and so compensatorily more red blood cells produced.

You have to stop smoking to cure your secondary polycythemia. If you stop smoking than gradually your CBC (complete blood count) will be normal. Drink lots of water like two to three liters per day to help in your polycythemia. You may need not to use aspirin as per my opinion. I hope I have answered your question. Let me know if I can assist you further.

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