Treatment will vary according to the person's age, gender, medical status, symptoms, and blood test results.
To reduce the risk of blood clots, treatment with low-dose acetylsalicylic acid* (ASA) is recommended for most people with polycythemia (unless there is a reason they should not take it).
Phlebotomy (removal of small amounts of blood) used to be the most common type of therapy for polycythemia vera.
When phlebotomy is used, blood will be withdrawn in amounts of 300 mL to 500 mL every few days at first, then every few weeks, and then every few months. The treatment goal will be to keep the blood hemoglobin level within the low-to-normal range. Often, the process of blood withdrawal can be stopped for months at a time if the hemoglobin level stays in the required range. For seniors or for people with heart or brain blood vessel disease, less blood is usually taken (i.e., only 200 mL to 300 mL twice a week). Once a person's hemoglobin levels are normal, he or she will probably have monthly doctor's appointments.
If the blood has high white blood cell and platelet counts in addition to a high content of red blood cells, the physician may prescribe a medication that cuts down blood cell production by the bone marrow (e.g., radioactive phosphorus). This medication has a success rate of 80% to 90%. Remissions may last from 6 months to several years. This medication has few side effects. Its main advantage is that people need fewer follow-up visits when the disease is controlled. In fact, just one treatment a year may be enough to control the disease. A disadvantage of radioactive phosphorus therapy is that it may turn normal white cells into leukemia cells. For this reason, it is rarely used.
Other medications may be used on a daily basis to lower both the white blood cell count and the platelet count. For example, hydroxyurea is commonly used.
Complications such as high uric acid blood levels and itchy skin may be treated with allopurinol or antihistamines, respectively.
In rare cases, the spleen can become extremely enlarged. The physician may recommend its surgical removal (splenectomy). Anyone who has had a splenectomy must get vaccinations to prevent future infections.
If the disorder seems to be causing considerable problems in an infant, up to several ounces of blood can be removed and replaced with intravenous fluid. This procedure usually dilutes the circulating red blood cells until they return to a normal level.
Unfortunately, there's no way to prevent polycythemia vera. However, you may reduce your risk of secondary polycythemia by not smoking and by not spending long periods of time at high altitudes.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2017. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/condition/getcondition/Polycythemia