Myelofibrosis Complications

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 15, 2022
2 min read

Any disease can cause problems in other parts of your body. Your doctor will call these complications.

Myelofibrosis is no exception. There’s no guarantee you’ll have other problems. But if you do, they’re likely to show up after you’ve been diagnosed for a while. 

You may not get them. But if you know what types of issues can affect you, you’ll be more likely to spot them early on.

Belly and back pain: Do you have a feeling of fullness or discomfort in the upper left area of your tummy? You may have an enlarged spleen. If the organ gets too big, it can cause pain when it pushes against other body parts.       

Bleeding: After you’ve had myelofibrosis for a while, the number of platelets in your blood will drop below normal levels. When you don't have enough platelets, you tend to bleed more easily. Keep this in mind in case you plan to have surgery or another medical procedure.

Bone and joint pain: Your bones may feel hard on the outside, but inside they’re full of a spongy substance called marrow. Its job is to make blood cells. Myelofibrosis can cause your bone marrow to harden. When that happens, the connective tissues that surround your bones become inflamed. The result: achy or tender bones and joint tenderness.

Growths: Blood cells are supposed to form inside your bone marrow. But myelofibrosis might cause them to grow in other parts of your body, like your lungs, liver, spleen, and digestive tract. This can cause clumps or tumors that your doctor will call extramedullary hematopoiesis. They can make you bleed, cough up blood, or have seizures.

Gout: Your body makes uric acid when it breaks down foods like steak, organ meats, and seafood.  When you have myelofibrosis, your body makes more uric acid than normal. When it builds up, it forms needle-like crystals in your joints. They cause sharp pain, swollen joints, and inflammation.

Portal hypertension: Blood leaves your spleen and goes to your liver through the portal vein. When you have an enlarged spleen, the blood goes out under high pressure.  This can force it into smaller veins in your stomach and esophagus. Sometimes they burst and bleed.

Acute leukemia: Some people who have myelofibrosis will get acute myeloid leukemia. This blood cancer can get worse quickly if it isn't treated.