What Is the Treatment for High Blood Viscosity?

Testing red blood cells helps address the issue of viscosity.
The phlebotomy used to treat high blood viscosity is known as therapeutic phlebotomy, since it is being done for therapeutic purposes.
High blood viscosity treatment can include a blood plasma exchange.
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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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High blood viscosity can be a secondary symptom of many different diseases. Treatment for this condition depends on how thick the blood is and can include the administration of fluids, plasmapheresis, or phlebotomy. It may be possible to wait and see whether treatment is actually needed, though severe cases of high blood viscosity require immediate treatment.

The first step in the treatment of high blood viscosity is positive identification of the disorder. Symptoms may include sleepiness, headaches, redness of the skin and seizures. These symptoms can be indicative of other conditions, including conditions that involve a low red blood cell count. In order to make sure that a patient is receiving proper treatment, a doctor will need to do a test that measures the level of red blood cells in the body. This will ensure that treatment is appropriate and will be beneficial for the patient.

Once a doctor determines that the red blood cell count is too high, treatment can begin. Patients are often given fluids that are used to treat dehydration. These fluids, added to the bloodstream, can thin out the ratio of blood cells to blood plasma.

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Treatment for high blood viscosity is determined by how thick the blood is. One common treatment is plasmapheresis or a blood plasma exchange. In this procedure, blood is taken from the patient and the plasma, which is the liquid component of blood, is removed. After the patient’s plasma is taken out of the blood, donated blood plasma is added to the patient’s blood cells, so that the ratio of blood cells to plasma is at a normal level. The blood cells and donor plasma are then given to the patient.

Phlebotomy is another common treatment for high blood viscosity. This simple procedure involves the removal of some blood from a patient’s blood stream. A small incision in a vein is used to control how much blood is removed.

There are a number of different causes of high blood viscosity and the treatment for the condition depends on the reason that the patient is experiencing the condition. Patients who have an increased red blood cell count due to a chronic condition, such as hypertension, may not benefit in the long run from high blood viscosity treatment. Monitoring and conservative use of treatment may be best for these patients, as frequent use of phlebotomy or plasmapheresis can have an adverse effect on a patient.

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Discuss this Article

anon961602
Post 6

Normal blood viscosity levels are 1.5 to 1.72 and it is not something that should alarm you. It is your body's way of saying that there is something not quite right and further tests will be required to find out what that is. Your doctor will take into account other readings from your blood test, as well, such as crp levels etc. If all other readings are within normal parameters, I wouldn't be too concerned. Just let your GP keep an eye on it.

Please be aware that the normal parameters do increase with age, I believe.

anon245686
Post 5

Does anyone know what a 'normal' blood viscosity should be? The receptionist told me that my blood tests came back with my blood viscosity being over the normal range at 1.91 and I wondered if anyone knows what this reading means. It sounds quite low to me.

Hawthorne
Post 4

@SkittisH - I don't know how technical or medically sound an answer this is, but my dad has trouble with high blood viscosity, and our doctor advised he take an aspirin every day.

Apparently aspirin helps to thin the blood, and for people with conditions like hypertension who just get the very start of high blood viscosity symptoms from decreased blood flow, it can really improve day to day life.

Dad has been taking his aspirins once a day for years now, and he does get headaches or feel nauseous like he used to before he started the habit up. I'm no doctor, so anybody reading this should ask their own doctor about whether they have high blood viscosity and what to do about it. It wouldn't hurt to suggest the aspirin regimen for mild symptoms, though.

Malka
Post 3

@ahain - Yeah, if you want to define blood viscosity it's basically having too many red blood cells compared to other cells in your bloodstream. The donated plasma isn't used necessarily because the patient is low on plasma, but rather because the donated plasma is a natural amount for a healthy person.

So filtering that amount of plasma back into the patient's bloodstream helps even out the red blood cell to plasma ratio in the blood and return the balance to normal. See?

Donating plasma is a great thing to do. People may need whole blood more often for things such as medical emergencies where they'd bled a lot, but the people that need plasma for things like high blood viscosity really need it by the time they get to doing a transfusion.

The body replaces plasma very fast, too -- at plasma donation centers you can donate twice in a week. Many places will even pay you a small compensation for donating you plasma to a good cause. A plasma replacement is an extreme treatment for high blood viscosity, though -- I would imagine doctors would try taking some blood out or various medications first before resorting to it.

SkittisH
Post 2

You would think that a condition where the blood is too thick would mostly cause problems with how well the heart can pump it around the veins.

So why does the phlebotomy procedure the article described -- making a small cut in a vein and draining some of the blood out -- help with that? I would imagine it might change blood pressure, but not other blood viscosity factors like the thickness of blood moving through the chambers of the heart.

I think that if a person has high blood viscosity, it would be a lot more useful to figure out the cause and treat that rather than moderating the symptoms by cutting veins.

ahain
Post 1

So this is what they use any donated blood plasma for! I just went to donate blood recently, and I hadn't been aware of the fact that you could donate just blood plasma until my friend who was there with me requested to just do that.

I was curious what blood plasma by itself was good for, and some searching led me to this article about blood viscosity. I always just think of water viscosity when I hear that word; I've heard of blood getting too thin, but never thought about it getting too thick.

It sounds like people who need to get their blood filtered and have plasma added back in are in pretty dire straits at that point. Next time I go to donate, I think I'll donate some blood plasma too -- for the blood viscosity patients.

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