Bleeding Disorders 101

Health and wellness Houston TXWhat You Need to Know This National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

March is National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month, and believe it or not, bleeding disorders impact more than three million Americans. It may seem as though every month is a national awareness month for something, and it’s easy to gloss over it and dismiss it as no big deal. However, having these awareness days and months is critical because it keeps the public informed about important medical issues that could very well affect them in some capacity at some point in their lives. With that in mind, this month we’re giving you a crash course in bleeding disorders.

Types of Bleeding Disorders

The three most common bleeding disorders are Hemophilia A, Hemophilia B, and Von Willebrand Disease. Other bleeding disorders include Hemophilia C, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), Acquired platelet function defects, Congenital protein C or S deficiency, Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), Glanzmann disease, Congenital platelet function defects, and various other factor deficiencies. For today’s purposes, we’ll focus on the most common ones.

Hemophilia A and B

The National Hemophilia Foundation says, “Hemophilia A, also called factor VIII (FVIII) deficiency or classic hemophilia, is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective factor VIII, a clotting protein.”

Hemophilia B, also called factor IX (FIX) deficiency or Christmas disease, is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective factor IX, a clotting protein.”

Both Hemophilia A and B are typically passed down from parents to their children, and “about 1/3 of cases are caused by a spontaneous mutation, a change in a gene.”

Hemophilia is present in about 1 in 5,000 live births. Hemophilia A is four times as common compared with Hemophilia B. Roughly 1 in 10,000 people have hemophilia, 20,000 of which are in the U.S. alone. All ethnic groups and races can be affected by it.

People afflicted with Hemophilia A and Hemophilia B bleed longer than other people and this bleeding can occur internally, into muscles and joints, or externally as a result of minor cuts, trauma, or even dental procedures. The less FVIII or FIX a patient has, the harder it is for their blood to form a clot when a cut or rupture occurs.

Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) also affects the blood’s ability to clot. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “In VWD, you either have low levels of a certain protein in your blood or the protein doesn’t work well. The protein is called von Willebrand factor, and it helps your blood clot.”

There are three types of VWD – type 1, 2 and 3. Most people who have WVD are diagnosed with type 1, which is a mild form that typically won’t cause bleeding that is life-threatening. However, some people with types VWD 2 and 3 will need emergency treatment if they have a cut, rupture or some other trauma to stop the bleeding.

Will Bleeding Disorders Disrupt Your Life?

For the most part, patients with bleeding disorders can live normal, active lives. On the other hand, the reason early diagnosis is so important is that it allows patients and doctors to work together to create a proper treatment plan and determine the best course of action in the event something that causes bleeding occurs.

Once your doctor knows the type of bleeding disorder you have, you may be given medication to increase the deficient blood factors in your bloodstream. This is especially critical for women prior to the onset of their menstruation, as women with bleeding disorders will often bleed excessively during menstruation, and therefore need preventive measures to avoid complications.

Excessive bleeding can also be a significant problem for women who are pregnant. During pregnancy, bleeding disorder symptoms can sometimes worsen, and increase the risk of complications to both mother and child throughout the pregnancy and especially while giving birth. You must discuss your bleeding disorders with your obstetrician and a hematologist if you are trying to or have become pregnant.

It is also critical that you be diagnosed prior to any medical procedures or surgeries where bleeding can occur. Having the diagnosis can help your doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals take precautions to reduce bleeding, and be prepared for the correct course of action in the event excess bleeding occurs.

Ailments That Can Occur With Bleeding Disorders

Just a few of the ailments that can occur as a result of bleeding disorders include:

  • Hemarthrosis: bleeding into the joints causing stiff joints or joint pain
  • Bleeding into the brain: can lead to seizures, strokes, paralysis, coma, and even death
  • GI Bleeding: gastrointestinal bleeding, or bleeding in the digestive tract

These ailments can be confirmed by diagnostic imaging and testing such as X Rays, CT scans, and MRIs. Hemarthrosis can also be diagnosed by joint aspiration (arthrocentesis).

Joint aspiration involves your doctor inserting a needle into your joint to collect a sample of the fluid in your joint. If the fluid is red, pink or brown, you may have hemarthrosis.

There are many other ailments that can be linked with bleeding disorders, and we simply can’t cover all of them here. Once your particular ailment is confirmed, your doctor can then develop a treatment plan. They may also give you prevention tips to avoid future problems.  

Knowledge About Bleeding Disorders is Power

We hope you’re never touched by bleeding disorders or any of the issues that result in the need for a medical awareness month or day. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky, and they will be looking for as much information as they can get on the diseases and ailments that plague them. If you know anyone who might need the information from this post, we hope you’ll share it.

If you need any diagnostic imaging for symptoms related to your bleeding disorder, contact one of our offices and schedule your appointment!

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