The common bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease has as its symptoms such things as nosebleeds and heavy periods.
Vicki Jacobs-Pratt got in touch with me recently to ask if I’d write something about Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month, which is in March. When she told me she had von Willebrand disease, I said “huh?”
When I think of bleeding disorders, the first one that comes to mind is hemophilia. It may be the most widely known, but I found out that it’s not the most common.
After Vicki and Dr. Helen Ryan, a hematologist at New England Cancer Specialists, brought me up to speed on von Willebrand, I knew it was important to pass along the information.
What is a bleeding disorder?
A bleeding disorder is actually a group of disorders that develop because the blood doesn’t clot properly. When we get injured and bleed, our bodies form a clot to stop the bleeding. For that to happen, you need platelets and clotting factors (there are 13!) in your blood. Depending on what kind of bleeding disorder you have, your body may not have enough of a factor or it doesn’t work the way it should.
There are several bleeding disorders. Among them, hemophilia, the one nearly everybody knows about and von Willebrand disease — much more common, but less widely known.
Hemophilia may be the most well-known bleeding disorder but it’s actually rare. It’s found in 1 of 5,000 live births.