BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Blood-forming organs: bone marrow; spleen; lymph glands;
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Adults of both sexes, but more common in men; usually
over age 50.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS--
> Polycythemia vera: unknown.
> Secondary polycythemia: congenital heart disease; chronic lung disease; cigarette
or cigar smoking; living at high altitude.
> Stress polycythemia: use of diuretic drugs; smoking; dehydration.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Heart or lung disease.
- Family history of polycythemia.
HOW TO PREVENT
Polycythemia vera cannot be prevented at present. > To help prevent secondary
polycythemia or stress polycythemia:
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory studies of bone marrow and blood (red-blood-cell count, measurement of
- X-ray of the kidneys.
- Radioactive chromium studies.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
Doctor's treatment. Treatment steps will be individualized depending on your age,
disease duration, type of polycythemia, complications and disease activity. > Possible
treatment steps to keep the hematocrit range near normal and prevent clotting or
hemorrhage are: Phlebotomy (withdrawal of excess blood); radioisotope therapy; and drug
therapy. The treatment chosen will depend upon symptoms and response
- Clots in veins or arteries.
- Heart attack.
- Peptic ulcer.
- Kidney stones.
- Polycythemia vera is incurable, but symptoms can be controlled. With treatment, average
survival ranges from 7-15 years, with some patients living 20 or more years.
- Other forms of polycythemia can be cured if the causes can be eliminated.
How To Treat
- Stop smoking. Consult your doctor about recommendations for a cessation program.
- Adherence to your treatment plan brings about improved survival and well-being.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Aspirin to decrease clotting and reduce the chance of stroke or heart attack may be
- Radioactive phosphorus or cytotoxic drugs.
- Allopurinol for elevated uric acid.
- Anti-itching medications.
- H2-receptor or antacids for hyperacidity.
ACTIVITY--After treatment, resume normal activity as soon as possible.
DIET--No special diet. Drink 6 to 8 oz. of fluid every 2 hours to maintain
adequate body fluid.
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of polycythemia.
- You have symptoms of complications (refer to specific disorder in this book).
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.