Polycythemia Vera (PV)

What is Polycythemia Vera (PV)?

Polycythemia Vera (PV) is a rare, slow-growing and chronic type of blood cancer, in which the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells and sometimes too many white blood cells and platelets. It is also known as primary or erythremic polycythemia, and is the most common form of the group of diseases known as myeloproliferative neoplasm.

Cause of Polycythemia Vera (PV)

The cause of PV is unknown; however, it is thought to involve genetic mutations that cause an abnormal and uncontrolled production of red blood cells and other factors at the same time. The abnormal production is the result of a defect in a particular gene (the JAK2 gene) that controls red and white blood cell formation. PV can also be caused by certain mutations of the TERT gene, which regulates the stem cells in the bone marrow responsible for producing blood cells.

Symptoms of Polycythemia Vera (PV)

The most common symptoms of PV are:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Itchy skin
  • Reddening of the skin on the hands and feet
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain

Diagnosis of Polycythemia Vera (PV)

Polycythemia Vera (PV) is usually diagnosed with a complete blood count which is typically done as part of a routine physical exam. Other tests may also be done to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Bone marrow biopsy to check for the presence of the JAK2 gene
  • Blood tests to measure the levels of red and white blood cells, platelet count, and other related markers.
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI

Treatment for Polycythemia Vera (PV)

Treatment for Polycythemia Vera (PV) may include:

  • Blood transfusions to reduce the thickening of the blood and reduce the red blood cell count
  • Medication to reduce red blood cells and control the symptoms of the disease
  • Bone marrow transplant if medication and transfusions do not work
  • Regular monitoring to detect early signs of complications