Polycythemia vera is a disorder of the bone marrow. It mainly causes too much production of red blood cells, although the numbers of white blood cells and platelets are also increased.
It is a rare disease that occurs more often in men than women, and is rare in patients under age 40. It is usually associated with a gene mutation called JAK2V617F. The cause of this mutation is unknown.
Polycythemia vera (PV) is a stem cell disorder characterized as a panhyperplastic, malignant, and neoplastic marrow disorder. The most prominent feature of this disease is an elevated absolute red blood cell mass because of uncontrolled red blood cell production. This is accompanied by increased white blood cell (myeloid) and platelet (megakaryocytic) production, which is due to an abnormal clone of the hematopoietic stem cells with increased sensitivity to the different growth factors for maturation.
- Breathing difficulty when lying down
- Excessive bleeding
- Fullness in the left upper abdomen (due to enlarged spleen)
- Itchiness, especially after a warm bath
- Red coloring, especially of the face
- Shortness of breath
- Symptoms of phlebitis
Note: Some of these symptoms are due to increased blood thickness and clotting.
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
- Bluish skin color
- Red skin spots
- Vision problems
The goal of treatment is to reduce the thickness of the blood and prevent bleeding and clotting.
A method called phlebotomy is used to decrease blood thickness. One unit of blood (about 1 pint) is removed weekly until the hematocrit level is less than 45 (males) or 42 (females). Then therapy is continued as needed.
Occasionally, chemotherapy (specifically hydroxyurea) may be given to reduce the number of red blood cells made by the bone marrow. Interferon may also be given to lower blood counts. A medicine called anagrelide may be given to lower platelet counts.
Some patients are advised to take aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots, though it increases the risk for stomach bleeding. Ultraviolet-B light therapy can reduce the severe itching some patients experience.
The disease usually develops slowly. Most patients do not experience any problems related to the disease after being diagnosed. The condition is often diagnosed before severe symptoms occur.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Bleeding from the stomach or other parts of the intestinal tract
- Heart failure
- Thrombosis (blood clotting, which can cause a stroke, heart attack, or other body damage)
Untreated, polycythemia vera can be fatal. Research has found that the "1.5-3 years of median survival in the absence of therapy has been extended to at least 10-20 years because of new therapeutic tools."
As the condition cannot be cured, treatment focuses on treating symptoms and reducing thrombotic complications by reducing the erythrocyte levels.
Cannabis for symptom relief:
Medical marijuana can relieve pain.
Recommendation: use a whole plant extract made from an Indica hybrid. Put it under the tongue two to three times a day.
Strains: Harlequin, White Widow, Trainwreck, the Kush’s
Patient can also try a vaporizer or edibles or a tonic or a tincture. Try making your own medicines from the best cannabis you can find. Make sure your medicine is grown by a person with integrity. Organically grown medical marijuana only!
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