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Am J Hematol. 2013 Aug;88(8):665-9. doi: 10.1002/ajh.23474. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

Aquagenic pruritus in polycythemia vera: characteristics and influence on quality of life in 441 patients.

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Department of Medical School, Hematology Oncology Center and Ludwig-Maximilians-University Medical School Munich, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Am J Hematol. 2013 Oct;88(10):925.


Aquagenic pruritus (AP) is a symptom typical for polycythemia vera, but very little is known about its exact frequency, characteristics, influence on quality of life, and proper treatment. Therefore, we investigated these aspects in a large cohort of German patients with polycythemia vera using a patient directed questionnaire. Our analysis revealed that 301 of 441 analyzed patients suffered from AP. In 64.8%, AP occurred on average 2.9 years prior to diagnosis of polycythemia vera. Only in 15.4% did this lead to a hematological investigation. AP occurs primarily on the trunk and proximal parts of the extremities. Most patients complain about itching (71.8%), the remainder about tickling, stinging, or burning sensations. Forty-four patients (14.6%) classified the pruritus as "unbearable." Patients with AP reported reduced global health status and higher fatigue, pain, and dyspnea. Only 24% of patients received pruritus specific treatment for pruritus consisting mostly of histamine antagonists, which ameliorated symptoms in about half of the patients. In 5.6% of patients, polycythemia vera directed therapy (phlebotomy/cytoreduction) resolved the symptoms. In summary, AP is a serious symptom in patients with polycythemia vera, which until recently was difficult to treat. The advent of the novel JAK2 inhibitors, however, may open new ways for therapy.

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