FAQs About Bleeding Disorders

What is a bleeding disorder?

A bleeding disorder occurs when one of several vital blood proteins is missing.  Without a complete set, clotting cannot happen and excessive bleeding into soft tissues and joints occurs.  This leads to pain and, eventually, long term consequences such as arthritis, even death.

This need not happen. A child born today with a bleeding disorder can look forward to a normal, active life--but only with proper treatment. And that's what the Utah Hemophilia Foundation, together with the Hemophilia Treatment Center at Primary Children's Medical Center and the University of Utah, is all about.

Can I "catch" a bleeding disorder?

No.  bleeding disorders are inherited.  That is, they are carried in the body's genetic code.  Hemophilia, the most widely known bleeding disorder, is carried by females on one of their X chromosomes and may be passed to their male offspring.  Von Willebrand disease, on the other hand, is autosomal.  That means it is carried on either the X or Y gene, and may be passed to both male and female offspring.

In one-third of all cases, however, there is no family history of the disease.  The bleeding disorder occurs as the result of a new or spontaneous mutation.

What are the symptoms of a bleeding disorder?

Even though a person is born with a bleeding disorder, he/she may not know it until challenged with injury, surgery, dental procedures (like having a tooth pulled), or, in the case of affected females, menstruation and childbirth.  Symptoms may include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Frequent or prolonged nosebleeds
  • In women, heavy and/or prolonged menstrual bleeding (lasting longer than 7 days)
  • Prolonged bleeding after injury, surgery, childbirth, or invasive dental procedures.

Bleeding disorders can be treated when diagnosed and affected individuals can live healthy lives. However, bleeding disorders are sometimes difficult to diagnose (especially von Willebrand Diesease).  The diagnoses for bleeding disorders is made via specialized blood tests (that may or may not be available at most labs).  It may be necessary for your blood to be sent to a specialized coagulation laboratory.

Can a person with a bleeding disorder bleed to death from a minor cut?

No.  That is a myth.  So is the belief that a person with a bleeding disorder's blood flows faster.  However, people with bleeding disorders experience problems with bleeding into their joints and soft tissues. This can be the result of trauma, but often occurs spontaneously.

Is there a cure?

Not yet, but researchers all over the world are working on it.  Until then, there is treatment, but it's expensive.  Clotting factor products are among the most costly medical therapies in the world.  Total annual costs may exceed $100,000. Complications such as minor surgery cause costs to skyrocket even higher.  Adequate insurance coverage is a must for a person with a bleeding disorder.