What is a bleeding disorder?
3/23/2023 by Jessica Richardson, APRN, C.N.P., M.S.N.
A bleeding disorder affects your body's ability to control bleeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are 3 million people affected by bleeding disorders. Von Willebrand disease and hemophilia are the most common bleeding disorders. However, both are considered rare.
What causes a bleeding disorder?
Bleeding disorders are inherited or acquired, though they can be related to platelet abnormalities.
Inherited bleeding disorders are passed genetically from parents. Inherited bleeding disorders include von Willebrand disease, hemophilia A (factor VIII deficiency) or B (factor IX deficiency), deficiency of factors II, V, VII, X, XI or XIII (deficiency of factor XII prolongs partial thromboplastin time, it is not associated with excessive or unusual bleeding), dysfibrinogenemia, hypofibrinogenemia, afibrinogenemia, Alpha-2 antiplasmin deficiency and plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI 1) deficiency.
Acquired conditions include vitamin K deficiency, liver disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation, massive transfusions, acquired coagulation factor inhibitors, acquired coagulation factor deficiency and acquired von Willebrand's syndrome.
Platelet abnormalities also may be inherited or acquired. Inherited platelet abnormalities include Bernard-Soulier syndrome, Glanzmann's thrombasthenia, gray platelet syndrome and dense granule deficiency. Certain medications and medical conditions can contribute to platelet abnormalities.
How can I prevent a bleeding disorder?
While some bleeding disorders are the result of genetic mutations, prevention may not be possible without genetic testing. Genetic mutations are passed down to offspring. Developing an acquired bleeding disorder may be reduced by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining healthy weight and seeing your primary care clinician regularly for chronic disease prevention and treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of a bleeding disorder?
Many people who have bleeding disorders reports symptoms that can include:
- Easy, excessive bruising.
- Recurrent and prolonged epistaxis.
- Prolonged bleeding from minor surgeries, cuts or lacerations, or blood draws.
- Prolonged bleeding after decidual tooth loss, extractions or dental work.
- Heavy menstruation (soaking feminine napkins or tampons every two hours).
What should I do if I am worried about having a bleeding disorder?
If you are worried you or a family member may be impacted by a bleeding disorder, the best thing to do is set up an appointment to review your concerns with your primary care clinician. Initial steps to evaluate people with concerns for bleeding disorders begins with sharing your personal and family history with your primary care clinician, having a complete physical examination and blood testing. For those with elevated risk factors, your clinician may refer you to a hematologist for further evaluation.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of bleeding disorders can help you connect with your primary care clinician early to begin the necessary evaluation to look for potential underlying bleeding disorders. Once a bleeding disorder is identified, treatment plans can be created under the guidance of a hematologist. Education is key in helping ensure those with bleeding disorders are safely cared for. In the event you or a loved one has a known bleeding disorder, ensure they are wearing the disorder-specific medical alert bracelet.
Jessica Richardson, APRN, C.N.P., M.S.N., is a nurse practitioner at Mayo Family Clinic Northeast in Rochester. She spends her free time enjoying a variety of activities with her family and friends. She also fills her time volunteering at the Salvation Army Good Samaritan Clinic and as a ski patroller at Welch Village.