Polycythemia Vera (PV) is a bone marrow disorder in which the body procures an excessive amount of red blood cells. While the red blood cells are made in the bone marrow, this production of blood cells is supposed to be tightly regulated and in case of Polycythemia Vera, the bone marrow produces to many red blood cells. Some of the common signs of Polycythemia Vera include fatigue, heart attack, stroke, difficulty breathing, and blood clot in the lungs, among others.
HOW IS POLYCYTHEMIA VERA DIAGNOSED?
A General Physician/Hematologist diagnoses Polycythemia Vera by ordering a complete blood test to measure the red blood cells in the blood.
HOW IS POLYCYTHEMIA VERA TREATED?
Treatment focuses on reducing your amount of blood cells. In many cases, treatment can prevent complications from polycythemia vera and decrease or eliminate the disease's signs and symptoms.
Treatment may include:
• Taking blood out of your veins: Drawing a certain amount of blood out of your veins in a procedure called phlebotomy is usually the first treatment option for people with polycythemia Vera. This reduces the number of blood cells and decreases your blood volume, making it easier for your blood to function properly. How often you need phlebotomy depends on the severity of your condition.
• Low-dose aspirin: Your doctor may recommend that you take a low dose of aspirin to reduce your risk of blood clots. Low-dose aspirin may also help reduce burning pain in your feet or hands.
• Medication to decrease blood cells: For people with polycythemia Vera who aren't helped by phlebotomy alone, medications, such as hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea), to suppress your bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells may be used. Interferon alpha may be used to stimulate your immune system to fight the overproduction of red blood cells.
• Therapy to reduce itching: If you have bothersome itching, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as antihistamines, or recommend ultraviolet light treatment to relieve your discomfort. Medications that are normally used to treat depression, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be helpful in relieving itching. Examples of SSRIs include paroxetine (Paxil) or fluoxetine (Prozac).
DID YOU KNOW?
Polycythemia Vera occurs more often in men than in women and rarely in anyone under 40.