A Patient's Guide to Managing Symptoms of Polycythemia Vera (Fact Sheet)

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Gout is a common symptom of PV.
Gout is a common symptom of PV.

If you are coping with polycythemia vera (PV), it is important to keep track of your symptoms and how they affect your daily activities. Over time, this will help your health care team know how to best manage this long-term diagnosis so that you can experience the best quality of life.

Common Symptoms of PV, and Practical Steps to Cope With Them

Fatigue. Start a gradual exercise program. Walking can improve your strength and energy level and can also improve blood flow, which decreases the risk of blood clots. Exercising and stretching the legs and ankles improves blood circulation.

Gout. Signs of gout include swelling in one or many joints or pain in the big toe. Your doctor can prescribe various medications to control a flare-up of gout; allopurinol (Zyloprim and others) is often prescribed to prevent future attacks.

Itching. To keep your skin from drying out and becoming itchy, lower the temperature of your shower or bath water, especially in the winter. After bathing, pat yourself dry and use lotion to keep your skin moist. Try not to scratch; scratching can damage the skin and increase the risk of infection. Over-the-counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl and others) can help with severe itching. Talk with your doctor before taking any medications to make sure they won't interfere with your treatment.

Headaches and vision problems; burning, redness or swelling of the hands and feet. Aspirin may help with these symptoms. Your doctor can determine the dosage that is best for you.

Emotional distress. Sometimes, talking with a family member, friend or loved one can help. You may also benefit from the help of a professional oncology social worker.  

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