von Willebrand Disease
Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a bleeding disorder. It affects your blood's ability to clot. If your blood doesn't clot, you can have heavy, hard-to-stop bleeding after an injury. The bleeding can damage your internal organs. Rarely, the bleeding may even cause death.
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.
Von Willebrand factor also carries clotting factor VIII (8), another important protein that helps your blood clot. Factor VIII is the protein that's missing or doesn't work well in people who have hemophilia, another bleeding disorder.
VWD is more common and usually milder than hemophilia. In fact, VWD is the most common inherited bleeding disorder. It occurs in about 1 out of every 100 to 1,000 people. VWD affects both males and females, while hemophilia mainly affects males.
The three major types of VWD are called type 1, type 2, and type 3.
People who have type 1 VWD have low levels of von Willebrand factor and may have low levels of factor VIII. Type 1 is the mildest and most common form of VWD. About 3 out of 4 people who have VWD have type 1.
In type 2 VWD, the von Willebrand factor doesn't work well. Type 2 is divided into subtypes: 2A, 2B, 2M, and 2N. Different gene mutations (changes) cause each type, and each is treated differently. Thus, it's important to know the exact type of VWD that you have.
People who have type 3 VWD usually have no von Willebrand factor and low levels of factor VIII. Type 3 is the most serious form of VWD, but it's very rare.
If you have type 1 or type 2 VWD, you may have the following mild-to-moderate bleeding symptoms:
- Frequent, large bruises from minor bumps or injuries
- Frequent or hard-to-stop nosebleeds
- Prolonged bleeding from the gums after a dental procedure
- Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding in women
- Blood in your stools from bleeding in your intestines or stomach
- Blood in your urine from bleeding in your kidneys or bladder
- Heavy bleeding after a cut or other accident
- Heavy bleeding after surgery
People who have type 3 VWD may have all of the symptoms listed above and severe bleeding episodes for no reason. These bleeding episodes can be fatal if not treated right away. People who have type 3 VWD also may have bleeding into soft tissues or joints, causing severe pain and swelling.
Treatment for von Willebrand disease (VWD) is based on the type of VWD you have and how severe it is. Most cases of VWD are mild, and you may need treatment only if you have surgery, tooth extraction, or an accident.
*Information from National Institutes of Health (NIH)