Treatment for PV aims to reduce the number of red blood cells. This helps to control your symptoms and to prevent any more serious problems. The treatment depends on your symptoms and also most importantly, your doctor’s advice. Here are some treatments for your information.
This involves taking your blood. You will have around a pint of blood removed, which will reduce the number of red cells in your blood. It is a simple procedure that might need to be done once a week to begin with. Then it can be repeated as often as neccessary.
Low dose aspirin
PV can raise the number of platelets in your blood. This can cause problems with blood clots. Low dose aspirin can lower your risk of getting a blood clot. You take it as a tablet.
You may have chemotherapy if venesection isn’t working and your spleen is enlarged and causing symptoms. This treatment uses cell killing (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy the immature blood cells. The drugs work by disrupting the growth of cells and stopping them from dividing. It helps to lower the number of red blood cells and platelets. There is a small increase in the risk of developing a leukaemia if you have this treatment repeatedly over a long time.
You may have the following chemotherapy drugs for PV: hydroxycarbamide and busulfan.
Ruxolitinib is a JAK2 inhibitor. These drugs work by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells. They are also called cancer growth blockers. JAK2 inhibitors stop the JAK2 gene from signalling to stem cells to make blood cells. Ruxolitinib can be used to treat PV if hydroxycarbamide chemotherapy is not working.
When red blood cells are broken down by the body they produce uric acid. If you have too much uric acid in your blood, it can collect in the joints and cause painful swelling, called gout. Allopurinol lowers the amount of uric acid in the blood and so helps to reduce the symptoms of gout.
This is a targeted treatment that helps to reduce the rate at which blood cells are made. It can help with the symptoms of PV, especially itching. Interferon is given as an injection. Side effects include flu like symptoms and tiredness.