All About Bleeding Disorders: Hemophilia, vWD and Rare Factor Deficiencies
March is Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month and we have partnered with the National Hemophilia Foundation to help educate on these important issues and engage with the community. We want to raise awareness and to empower individuals to take control of their health.
There are more than 3 million people in the U.S. living with a bleeding disorder.
A disorder is characterized by extended bleeding after injury, surgery, trauma or menstruation. It is not that people with a bleeding disorder bleed harder or faster than a person without a bleeding disorder, but they do tend to bleed longer.
The body produces 13 clotting factors. If any of them are defective or deficient, clotting is affected and a mild, moderate or severe bleeding disorder can result.
Symptoms of a bleeding disorder include:
- Bleeding into joints, muscles and soft tissues
- Unexplained nosebleeds and excessive bruising
- Prolonged, heavy menstrual periods (menorrhagia)
- Extended bleeding after minor cuts, blood draws or vaccinations, minor surgery or dental procedures
Hemophilia, von Willebrand disease and rare factor deficiencies are disorders that prevent the blood from clotting normally. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Hemophilia is a rare, inherited bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. People with hemophilia have either a low level of clotting factors, which help to stop bleeding, or none at all.
von Willebrand Disease (vWD) is the most common bleeding disorder, found in approximately 1% of the U.S. population. vWD is also a blood disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. People with vWD either have a low level of vWF, one of the many proteins that help the body stop bleeding, or the vWF protein doesn’t work the way it should.
Rare clotting factor deficiencies are less known and rarely diagnosed disorders in which one of several clotting factors is missing or not working properly. Many have only been discovered in the last 40 years.
Other conditions as anemia, cirrhosis of the liver, HIV, leukemia and vitamin K deficiency can cause bleeding disorders. They can also result from certain medications that thin the blood (aspirin, heparin and warfarin).
Treatment for such disorders varies, depending on the condition and severity. If you believe you may have a bleeding disorder or issue with your bleeding, consult with your doctor. Another great resource is betteryouknow.org, it’s a very helpful site for women who have symptoms and need to better understand if they are at risk.