What Is Essential Thrombocythemia (ET)?

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As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, Dr. Alison Moliterno from Johns Hopkins Medicine responds to the question “What is essential thrombocythemia?” She explains the condition and how it affects the body.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Carol Preston:

One simple question, Dr. Moliterno, what is essential thrombocythemia? 

Dr. Moliterno:

Essential thrombocythemia refers to a bone marrow disease where the bone marrow makes too many blood platelets.  An old term for platelet was thrombocyte, and so that's why this term thrombocythemia or thrombocytosis was designated.  It just means too many of a normal platelet count. 

Carol Preston:

All right.  And general what happens once that's diagnosed?  Is that basically indolent, slow growing, or... 

Dr. Moliterno:

It tends to be a finding often picked up on a routine blood count, where the platelet count might be mildly elevated.  It can be very indolent in patients, and they may not know they've even had it for several years.  We now understand that it's a bone marrow stem cell problem, where bone marrow stem cell that normally makes red cells, white cells and platelets in a controlled fashion acquires different properties, usually through mutation of a gene that helps control growth and that we start overproducing platelets as a consequence of this stem cell change. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on September 6, 2015