Polycythemia vera (PV) is a disease that causes you to produce too many red blood cells, which leads to restricted blood flow throughout the body.
Although there’s no cure for PV, there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and precautions you can take to limit complications.
The goal of PV treatment is to control the disease, prevent complications, and enable you to live a normal life span. Here are some steps you can take to be healthier and thus less prone to blood clots and infections.
Smoking constricts your circulation, which increases your risk for blood clots. Talk to your doctor about setting up a plan to help you quit.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
Because poor blood flow affects your hands and feet, you may be prone to more injuries from heat, cold, or excess pressure. Limit your exposure to sun and heated water, including time spent in hot tubs, heated pools, and whirlpools. Don’t use heat lamps or sun lamps, and never use a tanning bed. Be sure to check your hands and feet regularly for any sores. And make sure to keep them warm when you are exposed to cold temperatures.
When you take a shower or bath, use cooler water and dry yourself gently so as not to irritate your skin. Try adding starch to your baths if you’re prone to itching or scratching. It will help relieve the sensation and soothe your skin.
While no specific study proves that exercise has any influence on PV, regular exercise helps to increase your heart rate, improve your blood flow, and can even help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Watch Your General Health
The healthier you are, the more responsive your body will be to fight off infection or disease. Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, if they aren’t already, is one way to improve your health. Eating a balanced, heart-healthy diet can also keep you on track.
See Your Doctor
A hematologist who specializes in blood disorders can be your best source of information. You’ll need to be vigilant about following their instructions such as taking medication regularly and showing up for phlebotomy appointments.
During your visits with your hematologist, your blood counts will be checked and monitored. If you have additional or recurring symptoms of PV, tell your doctor immediately. They can recommend a new treatment or revise your current treatment to help reduce your symptoms such headaches, dizziness, vision problems, and other signs of recurring disease.
Joining a support group is another way to manage your disease and help you feel better. The MPN Foundation and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offer resources for finding groups. Other major cancer center sites such as:
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York
- MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston
- Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston
These are other places to look for support groups. Your doctor or hematologist can also give you suggestions.
Remember, PV is a treatable disease. By taking your medications, listening to your hematologist, living a healthy lifestyle, and following some of recommendations mentioned in this article, you can live a normal life.