How do I Choose the Best Polycythemia Treatment?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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Physicians may recommend one or more kinds of treatment for polycythemia, so the best polycythemia treatment can vary from patient to patient. In cases where an initial form of polycythemia vera treatment is not effective, many doctors prescribe additional forms of treatment to supplement or replace the first treatment. For most patients, the first type of polycythemia treatment to be prescribed is a phlebotomy. Physicians generally draw blood from one or more of a patient’s veins during a phlebotomy in order to reduce the volume of a patient’s blood and make the blood flow more easily. In some instances, a phlebotomy is not enough to effectively treat this medical disorder, and a physician may decide to prescribe one or more medications for polycythemia treatment.

Polycythemia, also known as polycythemia vera, is a rare medical disorder that causes an individual’s bone marrow to produce an excessive amount of red blood cells and often results in abnormally thick blood. In some cases, this condition can also result in excessive production of other types of blood cells such as platelets and white blood cells. Drugs such as anagrelide and hydroxyurea typically suppress the ability of the bone marrow to produce blood cells. Interferon-alpha may be used to prompt a patient’s immune system to fight the overproduction of red blood cells, and radioactive phosphorus may be taken to reduce the number of red blood cells in a patient’s bloodstream.


Individuals with polycythemia can experience excessive blood clotting in some cases, and effective polycythemia treatment may include low-dose aspirin to reduce clotting. Lifestyle adjustments such as increasing regular exercise and stopping the use of tobacco may also help reduce some blood clotting problems. Some people with this disease can develop body itching, especially after they have taken a warm bath, and their individual polycythemia treatment may be supplemented with an antihistamine or ultraviolet light therapy to reduce the itching. People with itching may also use some skin lotions to keep their skin moisturized.

In addition to excessive blood clotting and itching, patients with polycythemia can develop other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and breathing problems. Fatigue, vision problems and a bluish skin discoloration may also occur in some instances. The risk of strokes and heart attacks may be higher in some people with this condition due to abnormal clotting of the blood. Physicians usually perform a thorough medical examination, and they may use several medical tests such as a bone marrow biopsy and various blood tests to help them diagnose this disorder. The causes of individual cases of polycythemia are generally not known, but the disease typically results from a genetic mutation and is more likely to occur in men and in people over 60 years of age.



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