Home Blood problems Polycythemia vera: types, symptoms, and treatment

Polycythemia vera: types, symptoms, and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms are a group of diseases that cause bone marrow produces excessive amounts of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. The blood and marrow must be examined in depth to diagnose these pathologies. There are six types of myeloproliferative neoplasms: chronic myelogenous leukemia, primary myelofibrosis, essential thrombocythemia, chronic neutrophilic leukemia, chronic eosinophilic leukemia, and polycythemia vera. We dedicate this work by FastlyHealto to this last condition.

Polycythemia vera is a disease of the bone marrow that causes it to produce excessive amounts of blood cells, mainly red blood cells, which can lead to headaches, weakness, and itching. It is a condition that is usually more common after 60 years of age. Below, you will know the symptoms of polycythemia vera, types, and treatment.

Types of polycythemia vera

Polycythemia vera is a type of myeloproliferative neoplasia that causes a disorder in the bone marrow by causing it to increase its production of blood cells. The type of blood cells that are abundant in the blood will depend on the stage or style of polycythemia vera:

  • Primary polycythemia vera: There is an uncontrolled proliferation of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The appearance of this condition is believed to be due to a mutation in the JAK2 gene. This disease occurs because an alteration of the hematopoietic stem cell occurs, which gives rise to all blood cells.
  • Polycythemia vera: there is an excessive proliferation only of red blood cells, increasing volume. It is divided into two groups: appropriate polysemic, when the disease occurs in response to hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood) and is more common in people who live in high altitude areas, smoke excessively, or have the cardiopulmonary disease. The second type is inappropriate polycythemia, and it occurs when the proliferation of red blood cells results from abnormal production of erythropoietin. This substance is abundant in people with tumors.

The excess red blood cells derived from polycythemia vera can cause the blood to be thicker, the base to enlarge due to extra red blood cells in it, and can also cause bleeding and blood clots. This disease is sporadic, and although it is usually diagnosed in people in their sixties, it can also be interpreted in childhood and adulthood. People with polycythemia vera can lead an everyday life with treatment, although they are at increased risk of developing thrombosis, bleeding, acute leukemia, and other types of cancer.

Symptoms of polycythemia vera

In general, the symptoms of polycythemia vera may take time to appear and usually do so gradually, so it is common for them to seem minor by little and not be associated with each other. Also, many of the symptoms of this disease are very generalized, making associating them with the disease even more difficult. The main symptoms of polycythemia vera are:

  • Tiredness.
  • Headache.
  • Double or blurred vision.
  • Itching, especially after showering.
  • Vertigo and tinnitus.
  • Increase in blood volume.
  • Dizziness.
  • She is breathing difficulty when lying down.
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fullness in the upper left part of the abdomen due to enlargement of the base, which occurs in 40% of people with this disease.
  • The reddish coloration on cheeks and nose.
  • Red spots on the skin or bluish color of it.

Diagnosis of polycythemia vera

In general, most people with this disease are diagnosed by surprise. And it is because the symptoms are so isolated and progress slowly; in most cases, the doctor suspects the existence of this disorder due to the results of a simple analysis that shows altered values ​​of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, or just levels elevated red blood cells.

To corroborate the diagnosis, the person must be examined by a hematologist, a blood specialist who will ask for various studies to be carried out to verify that the person has polycythemia vera and to rule out other diseases and myeloproliferative neoplasms. The tests that the doctor can order are:

  • Bone marrow aspirate and biopsy.
  • Blood count with leukocyte formula.
  • Erythropoietin level.
  • Genetic testing to identify if there is a JAK2 gene mutation.
  • Oxygen saturation in the blood.
  • Red blood cell mass.
  • Vitamin B12 .
  • Platelet aggregation test.

Treatment of polycythemia vera

The treatment of polycythemia vera is essential for the life of those who suffer from it since a person with this disease and without treatment has a survival of 18 months. The goal of treating polycythemia vera is to reduce the thickness of the blood to prevent thrombi or bleeding from occurring. Polycythemia vera is treated as follows:

  • Phlebotomy: forms the basis of all treatment. It is done to thin the blood and prevent bleeding and clots. This treatment consists of drawing a unit of blood (0.47 liters) weekly to reduce the hematocrit. The constancy of the exam will depend on the need of the person.
  • Drug use: this disease also suggests taking drugs that help improve symptoms. Therefore, the consumption of antiaggregants such as aspirin is prescribed to reduce the risk of thrombosis, myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, and pulmonary infarction. The consumption of interferon to minimize blood counts and anagrelide to reduce platelet counts is also indicated.
  • Chemotherapy: In older people, some types of chemotherapy are sometimes recommended to help treat the condition.

Complications of polycythemia vera

The most common complications in people with polycythemia vera are:

  • Thrombosis: formation of thrombi in blood vessels, arteries, or veins. Thrombosis can affect blood vessels anywhere in the body and can cause strokes, angina, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, or limb thrombosis.
  • Hemorrhages: can occur digestively, causing gastric bleeding. Nosebleeds can also occur.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Polycythemia vera: types, symptoms, and treatment, we recommend that you enter our category of Blood, heart and circulation .

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