PV is a chronic disease: It's not curable, but it can usually be managed effectively for long periods. Careful medical supervision and therapy to keep the hematocrit concentration (amount of red blood cells compared with total volume of blood) near normal are important. .
Types of PV Treatment
Doctors use two main initial treatments for PV:
- Drug Therapy
- Your doctor may suggest that you participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can involve therapy with new drugs and new drug combinations.
PV therapies are aimed at:
- Lowering the hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration to normal or near-normal levels
- Lowering the platelet count if it's high or it becomes high over time
- Decreasing PV-related symptoms
Patients with low-risk PV are usually phlebotomized (see Phlebotomy) and given low-dose aspirin. Patients with high-risk PV require medical therapy to decrease hematocrit concentration permanently, which eliminates a need for phlebotomy and decreases the risk of clotting. All patients are given low-dose aspirin.
Finding the Best Treatment Approach
Treatment decisions are based on the patient's risk for clotting complications (thrombosis). Risks for thrombosis include
- A history of a clot
- Advanced age (over 60 years)
- Cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels, diabetes, smoking, obesity or hypertension - all considered additional risk factors for thrombosis.
The goals of PV treatment are to:
- Control symptoms
- Reduce the risk of complications
As you develop a treatment plan with your doctor, be sure to discuss:
- The results you can expect from treatment
- Potential side effects
- The possibility of participating in a clinical trial, where you'll have access to advanced medical treatment that may be more beneficial to you than standard treatment
You may find it helpful to bring a loved one with you to your doctor's visits for support and to take notes and ask follow-up questions. It's a good idea to prepare questions you'd like to ask when you visit your doctor. You can also record your conversations with your doctor and listen more closely when you get home.
Click here to download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers.