Essential thrombocythemia is a rare, chronic condition characterized by an overproduction of blood platelets. Primary myelofibrosis (PMF) is another uncommon disorder characterized by scarring in your bone marrow, leading to anemia and other serious complications. The two are related, in that essential thrombocythemia can progress to the more life-threatening PMF if left unchecked, and both fall under the category of myeloproliferative disorders, which are pre-leukemic disorders characterized by overproduction of red blood cells, white blood cells, or blood platelets. Once PMF is contracted, it’s possible for your condition to progress into acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
The Basics of Essential Thrombocythemia
Essential thrombocythemia has no known cause, though roughly 90% of those who contract it have acquired a gene mutation that contributes to the problem.
Symptoms may not be noticeable at first, and the first sign of essential thrombocythemia might be a blood clot, particularly in your brain, hands, or feet. Additional symptoms, once they arrive, include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, fainting, changes in vision, and numbness, tingling, redness, throbbing, or burning pain in the hands and feet. Excessive bleeding, in the form of nosebleeds, bruising, bloody gums, or bloody stool, may occur, too.
Blood clots caused by thrombocythemia can create serious complications, including stroke, heart attack, or excessive bleeding. In rare cases, you can develop AML or myelofibrosis.
The Basics of Primary Myelofibrosis (PMF)
PMF occurs when your bone marrow becomes scarred, in turn reducing its production of normal, healthy blood cells, and leading to anemia. Like thrombocythemia, it’s a slow growing condition that may not be noticeable at first. Symptoms include tiredness, weakness, shortness of breath, pain below your ribs due to an enlarged spleen, easy bruising and bleeding, night sweats, fever, and bone pain. Causes are mostly unknown, though genetic mutation is a common indicator.
Complications can ensue, including an enlarged spleen causing abdominal and back pain, tumorous growths, bleeding complications, and AML.
VA Disability Benefits and Treatment
The VA treats both disorders under the single diagnostic code 7718, and assigns a rating based on the seriousness of your condition. A 100% rating is granted if your condition requires “continuous myelosuppressive therapy or, for six months following hospital admission, peripheral blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant, or treatment with radioactive phosphorus or chemotherapy (including myelosuppressants).” For less serious cases requiring myelosuppressive therapy to maintain platelet or white blood cell levels, your condition will be rated at 30% or 70%. Asymptomatic cases garner a 0% rating. If your condition transforms into leukemia, you will be evaluated under diagnostic code 7703 for leukemia.
Although anecdotal evidence suggests a link between exposure to Agent Orange and these two myeloproliferative disorders, neither essential thrombocythemia nor PMF are considered “Agent Orange presumptive diseases,” meaning that affected veterans must prove a service connection for their condition through medical evidence and military records. If your condition has progressed into leukemia, and you can likewise prove that you were exposed to Agent Orange during your service history, the VA will presume a service connection, but otherwise you will need to go through the regular claims process to treat these two disorders.
Assistance with Benefits Claims and Appeals
Even if the claims process is lengthier due to these conditions’ exclusion from the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases, you won’t want to avoid treatment. Essential thrombocythemia and primary myelofibrosis are serious disorders that can develop into more life-threatening conditions, so if you’re able to prove a service condition, it’s in your best interest to seek disability benefits from the VA. If you need assistance starting a claim, or have been denied one and need help filing your appeal, contact VA Disability Group PLLC at 844-VET-LAWS. We are determined to see you get the much-deserved benefits and much-needed healthcare regarding these disabilities.