What to Know?

What Are Bleeding Disorders?

"Bleeding disorders" is a general term for a wide range of medical problems that lead to poor clotting and continuous bleeding. Health care providers call these conditions by many different terms, including coagulopathy, abnormal bleeding, and clotting disorders. While hemophilia is the best-known bleeding disorder, many types exist, and most are inherited.

Types of bleeding disorders

  • Hemophilia: there are several types of hemophilia. The two most common are:
    • Hemophilia A (Factor IIIV)
    • Hemophilia B (Factor IX)
       
  • von Willebrand disease (VWD): researchers have identified many variations of this bleeding disorder:
    • Type 1 VWD
    • Type 2 VWD (4 subtypes: subtype 2A, subtype 2B, subtype 2M, and subtype 2N) 
    • Type 3 VWD
    • Acquired VWD
       
  • Rare Factor Deficiencies: there are several rare, inherited bleeding disorders in which one or more clotting factors are not in the blood, are only in small amounts, or don’t work properly
     
  • Rare Platelet Disorders: there are several rare bleeding disorders in which platelets lack a protein needed for blood to clot. These disorders are inherited in autosomal recessive fashion

Visit Steps For Living our premier educational website for people living with bleeding disorders for more information.

Bleeding Disorders Vary Greatly in Severity and Frequency

Each bleeding disorder has its own range of severity, which is generally categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. Approximately 20,000 individuals in the United States have hemophilia.  Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the most common type of bleeding disorder, affecting an estimated 1/100 - 1/10,000 individuals in the United States. Each of these disorders causes bleeding and each can be treated.

What Happens When a Person Bleeds?

When the body is injured and starts to bleed, the bleeding stops when a clot forms. The multistep process of clot formation is called coagulation. The word coagulation comes from the Latin word meaning to cause to curdle. When blood clot formation occurs properly, the blood doesn’t actually curdle, but it holds together firmly at the site of the injury.

People who have a bleeding disorder are unable to make strong clots quickly or at all.

Visit Steps For Living, our premier educational website for people living with bleeding disorders, to see the clotting process in action.

Why Is It Important To Know If I Have A Bleeding Disorder?

Finding out that you have a bleeding disorder and getting the medical help you need can really improve your daily quality of life and reduce stress. Besides being an inconvenience, heavy bleeding can be a health risk. The blood loss can cause anemia or iron-poor blood. Anemia means you have a low red blood cell count in your blood. Untreated bleeding disorders can cause dangerous bleeding after:

  • Childbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • Abortion and Termination of Pregnancy
  • Dental work
  • Any surgery, whether minor or major
  • Injury

These bleeding problems can be prevented or controlled with treatment. If you have symptoms of a bleeding disorder, talk to your doctor.

What are the Symptoms Of A Bleeding Disorder?

Finding out that you have a bleeding disorder and getting the medical help you need can really improve your quality of life and reduce stress.

Women bleed during menstruation, childbirth and miscarriages therefore we are more likely than men to notice symptoms of a bleeding disorder. Heavy menstrual bleeding (periods) is not the only symptom of a bleeding disorder. Talk to your healthcare provider, if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms:

  • Have been told you are “low in iron” or have been treated for anemia.
  • Have experienced heavy bleeding after any surgery including dental surgery
  • Have heavy menstrual bleeding (having to change one pad or tampon every hour)
  • Have experienced heavy bleeding after childbirth or miscarriage
  • Have frequent nosebleeds that last longer than 10 minutes
  • Have bleeding from cuts or injuries that lasts longer than 10 minutes
  • Bruise easily, with bruises that are raised and larger than a quarter
  • Have someone in your family who has one or more of these symptoms
  • Have someone in your family who has been diagnosed with a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand disease or hemophilia.

What is a normal period?

What is normal?

  • A period (menstruation) usually lasts about 4 or 5 days, but one that lasts anywhere between 2 and 7 days is considered normal.
  • A normal period occurs on average about every 28 days. Even if you go 21 to 35 days between periods, it is still considered to be normal. You should be able to use each pad or tampon for more than an hour, even on your heaviest days.

What is not normal?

Menstrual bleeding that lasts more than 7 days is considered heavy, and is called menorrhagia. It may be hard for you to tell if you have heavy bleeding because you have gotten used to it. Or perhaps your mother or other female relatives have told you that it’s normal to have heavy bleeding. But if you have any of the following signs, you might have menorrhagia:

  • You use more than one pad or tampon every hour
  • Need to double up by wearing one pad and a tampon because of heavy bleeding
  • Need to change pads or tampons more than once during the night.
  • Have a menstrual flow that repeatedly contains blood clots the size of a quarter or larger.
  • Have a menstrual flow so heavy that it keeps you from doing the things you would do normally, such as going to work or school.

How to Manage Heavy Periods?

A heavy periods can be annoying and can sometimes interfere with activities you enjoy. But don’t let heavy periods affect the quality of your life. Until you are able to see your healthcare provider, here are some tips to help you cope with heavy periods.

Heavy bleeding:

  • Use pads that are designed for heavy flow and have wings.
  • Carry extra tampons, pads and undergarments with you during the “heavy days” of your period.
  • Try the reusable menstrual cups that are available in many drugstores. They hold 3 times more blood than a super tampon.
  • Avoid wearing white and light-colored clothing during your period.
  • Wear a long shirt or keep a sweater or sweatshirt with you to wrap around your waist in case of leakage.

Cramps:

  • Use a disposable heating pad that can be worn under your clothes.
  • Do not take aspirin or NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs), because they may increase bleeding. If you have cramps or back pain, acetaminophen can be a safer pain relief option. Talk to your healthcare provider to find a medication that is best for you.
  • Lower or avoid salt, caffeine and alcohol in your diet.
  • Try using a hot water bottle or heating pad.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Try to relax and get the proper amount of sleep.
  • Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet may help with cramps.

Pain:

Many women with bleeding disorders have pain during their menstrual period that is more severe than normal cramps. This is called dysmenorrhea. Some women also feel pain in the middle of their cycle, between periods when one of the ovaries releases an egg. If you have excessive pain during or in between your periods, talk to your health care provider.

Learn more about managing periods at Steps For Living our premier educational website for people living with bleeding disorders.