Von Willebrand's 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's 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's 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's 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.
a lot is the main symptom of von Willebrand's disease. How severe the bleeding
is will be different for each person.
Symptoms of mild von
Willebrand's disease include:
Symptoms of more severe von Willebrand's disease include
those listed above and:
Von Willebrand's disease can be hard to
diagnose. Some people who have mild von Willebrand's 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.
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's disease you have, how
much you bleed, and your risk for heavy bleeding.
If you have a mild type of von Willebrand's disease, you may
If you have severe von Willebrand's disease, your treatment may include:
If you have severe von Willebrand's 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
Most large hospitals have a "bleeding disorders" resource center. Learn the phone number to the center closest to you, and carry it
Learning about von Willebrand's disease:
This CDC website has information about von Willebrand Disease (VWD). The website includes information on cause, symptoms, and treatment. There is also information for women regarding pregnancy and childbirth. You can access free educational materials. The website also helps you find the specialized treatment center that is closest to you.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is dedicated to the cures
of inherited bleeding disorders and the prevention and treatment of their
complications through education, advocacy, and research. The NHF has chapters
throughout the country and a communications network that brings health
professionals and the public the latest news about bleeding disorders. NHF's
Web site provides information on the nature, symptoms, and treatments of many
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.Other Works ConsultedAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2009). Von Willebrand disease in women. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 451. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 114(6): 1439–1443.Friedman KD, Rodgers GM (2009). Inherited coagulation disorders. In JP Greer et al., eds., Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology, 12th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1379–1424. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.James AH, et al. (2009). Von Willebrand disease and other bleeding disorders in women: Consensus on diagnosis and management from an international expert panel. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 201(12): e1–e8.National 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.Nichols ML (2012). Von Willebrand disease and hemorrhagic abnormalities of platelet and vascular function. In L Goldman, A Shafer, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine, 24th ed., pp. 1131–1136. Philadelphia: Saunders.
November 26, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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