Most of us don’t think twice about the valuable defense force that our blood makes—at least not until we have to. Because of the subtle symptoms of a blood disorder, many people don’t realize they have one until they face a serious injury or surgery.
Bleeding disorders are caused by insufficient or ineffective amounts of the protein that combines with platelets to clot blood. They’re dangerous because they typically cause a person to bleed for an abnormally long time, and they can cause spontaneous bleeding in joints or muscles.
What types of bleeding disorders are there?
Hemophilia is a hereditary condition that affects about one in 10,000 people. Symptoms include:
- Large bruises
- Bleeding in muscles and joints
- Spontaneous internal bleeding
- Prolonged bleeding following an injury or surgery
Common treatments include a mixture of methods from medication and steroids to physical and gene therapy.
Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the most common form of bleeding disorder, affecting 1 percent of the population. Also hereditary, it is caused when the body produces too little of the blood-clotting protein or produces a protein that doesn’t work effectively. Many people with VWD have few or no symptoms, but some exhibit warning signs, including frequent nosebleeds, bruising easily, and bleeding from the gums.
Other serious bleeding disorders exist but are rare and difficult to diagnose. One such condition is thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot is present in a blood vessel. Thrombosis can be caused by a genetic defect or as a result of an outside factor, such as surgery, pregnancy, or obesity.
If you’re living with a bleeding disorder diagnosis, follow these lifestyle tips to prevent bleeding and stay prepared:
- Carry identification: This should include your hemophilia type, your treatment, and your doctor’s contact information
- Research before traveling: Find local blood disorder treatment centers before leaving, and have an extra supply of blood factor on hand with you in case of an emergency
- Exercise wisely: Swap out contact sports for low-impact exercises such as walking and swimming
- Be mindful of meds: Check with your doctor before taking any new medications—even over-the-counter meds and herbal supplements—because they may thin your blood
- Visit the dentist: Good dental health helps prevent bleeding caused by gum disease or oral surgery
Check out these other posts to learn more ways to spot symptoms.