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Polycythemia Vera

Polycythemia Vera - What it is

​Polycythaemia vera is a blood condition where there is uncontrolled production of blood cells by the bone marrow. People with polycythemia vera will have too many red blood cells and may also have higher than normal white blood cells and platelets. 

Polycythemia Vera - Symptoms

​Patients with polycythaemia vera present in different ways.  

Symptoms include:
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Sensation of itch
  • Painful and swollen joints of the hands and feet
  • Blood clots 
Some patients may develop an enlarged spleen, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain and getting full easily after a meal.  
For others, they may not have any symptoms, but abnormalities were detected after a routine blood test.  

Polycythemia Vera - How to prevent?

​At present there is no routine screening for polycythaemia vera. 

Individuals should seek medical attention if they have any of the above symptoms.
Currently there are also no proven preventive strategies for polycythaemia vera. 
However, adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent disease. This includes: 
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Quitting or not starting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Regular exercise

Polycythemia Vera - Causes and Risk Factors

​Polycythaemia vera occurs when there is a mutation in genes which is involved in the regulation of blood cell production. The cause of the gene mutation is unknown and is usually not an inheritable mutation. 

Polycythemia Vera - Diagnosis

​To make a diagnosis of polycythaemia vera, patients will require blood tests including a full blood count and tests for the mutations (gene alterations) found with MPN. The gene alteration usually associated with polycythaemia vera is the Jak2 V617F or Exon12 mutation. 

Patients may need a bone marrow aspiration and trephine biopsy, as well as additional tests to exclude other causes of elevated blood counts.

Polycythemia Vera - Treatments

​The treatment of polycythaemia vera is two-pronged: 

  • Decrease the risk of blood clots through the use of “blood thinners” such as antiplatelet agents like aspirin or anticoagulation therapies.
Good control of pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes mellitus also helps to decrease the risk of blood clot.
A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and a healthy diet is also recommended.
  • Reduction of red blood cell concentration
This can be achieved by:
    • Venesection which is the removal of a volume of blood from a vein at regular intervals to reduce the amount of red blood cells.  
    • Medication to control the level of red blood cells such as hydroxyurea, PEGylated interferon

Polycythemia Vera - Preparing for surgery

Polycythemia Vera - Post-surgery care

Polycythemia Vera - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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