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Von Willebrand disease is a bleeding disorder. When you have this disease, it takes longer for your blood to form clots, so you bleed for a longer time than other people.
Normally, when a person begins to bleed, small blood cells called platelets go to the site of the bleeding and clump together to help stop the bleeding. If you have von Willebrand disease, your blood doesn't clot well because you don't have a certain protein in your blood or you have low levels of it. This protein is called the von Willebrand factor. It helps your blood to clot by helping the platelets stick together.
The disease is mild in most people. It can stay the same or get better or worse as you get older.
There are three major types of the disease. They range from mild to severe.
Von Willebrand disease usually is passed down through families (inherited). If you have the disease, your doctor may suggest that your family members get tested for it too.
It's possible to get acquired von Willebrand disease later in life. This rare form of the disease isn't inherited. Instead, it seems to be caused by certain diseases or certain medicines.
Bleeding a lot is the main symptom of von Willebrand disease. How severe the bleeding is will be different for each person.
Symptoms of mild von Willebrand disease include:
Symptoms of more severe von Willebrand disease include those listed above and:
Von Willebrand disease can be hard to diagnose. Some people who have mild von Willebrand disease bleed about the same amount as other people do. You may not notice any symptoms until you bleed a lot after an injury, dental procedure, or surgery.
Your doctor will ask you how often and how much you bleed. If your doctor thinks you may have a problem with clotting, he or she may suggest:
Treatment depends on the type of von Willebrand disease you have, how much you bleed, and your risk for heavy bleeding.
You may need to:
Your treatment may include:
If you have von Willebrand disease, you most likely will need to take extra care to treat and prevent bleeding episodes. Avoid NSAIDs and blood thinners. Try to stay at a healthy weight and keep active. This helps prevent bleeding into muscles and joints. Avoid sports or activities where injury and bleeding are likely, such as football and hockey.
Tell all your doctors and other health professionals, such as your dentist, that you have this disease. Doctors need to know about it before you have any procedures, because you may be at risk for dangerous bleeding.
Most large hospitals have a "bleeding disorders" resource centre. Learn the phone number to the centre closest to you, and carry it with you.
CitationsNational Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2007). The Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Management of von Willebrand Disease. (NIH Publication No. 08–5832). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/vwd.
Current as of: July 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAnne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineBrian Leber MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
Current as of: July 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Brian Leber MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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