March Is Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month: What Is It?

Normally, a minor cut or injury should stop bleeding within a few minutes. In fact, “applying pressure with a clean gauze or cloth for four to five minutes should stop the bleeding,” explains Dr. Martin Brown, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Virginia.

What if blood continues to gush out?

A bleeding disorder is serious a condition that affects the way blood clots in the body. When the flesh is cut or wounded, coagulation takes place, allowing the blood to shift from liquid to solid. In this case, the blood will begin to clot to prevent massive blood loss. When certain conditions hinder the vital fluid from clotting normally, the continued gushing could be the result of a bleeding disorder.

The disease is also internal, meaning the abnormal discharge of blood can not only appear over the skin, but also in vital organs.

What are the types of bleeding disorders?

How a person contracts the disease can be classified into two types: Inherited bleeding disorders are passed down through genetics, while acquired bleeding disorders can develop later on in life. Most bleeding diseases are the result of an accident or injury. In other cases, however, heavy bleeding can occur without warning and for no reason.

There are several different bleeding disorders, but the following are the most common:

  • Von Willebrand’s disease (VWD) is the most common inherited bleeding disorder. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The disease occurs with equal frequency among men and women, affecting up to 1% of the general population. However, women are more likely to experience symptoms of VWD because of the increased bleeding it causes during their menstrual periods, during pregnancy, and after childbirth.” The von Willebrand factor is what helps the blood to clot, and its absence triggers abnormal bleeding.
  • Hemophilia occurs when the levels of clotting factors in the blood are low. Based on CDC data, Hemophilia A affects 1 in 5,000 male births, and roughly 400 babies are born with the disease each year. It causes substantial bleeding into the joints. Though hemophilia is rare, it does have life-threatening complications.
  • Rare Factor Deficiencies are other bleeding disorders related to blood clotting problems or unusual bleeding problems. Factor XIII deficiency, the rarest, occurs in an estimated 1 out of 5 million people.

What are the causes of bleeding disorders?

Platelets and clotting factors work together, allowing blood to clot and prevent excessive blood loss. Usually, the body’s platelets (a form of protein) clump together to form a barrier at the site of a damaged blood vessel. Then, the clotting factors (blood cells) come together to form a fibrin clot. This critical development keeps the platelets in place and prevents any blood from flowing out of the blood vessel. When platelets and clotting factors function abnormally or are in short supply, it causes extensive bleeding.

In addition, the following may also cause bleeding disorders:

  • A deficiency in vitamin K, which plays a crucial role in helping the blood clot
  • Low count of red blood cells
  • Anticoagulants or medications that prevent blood clots from forming

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms can vary depending on the specific type of bleeding disorder. However, some of the common signs include:

  • Bleeding into joints, muscles and soft tissues
  • Unexplained excessive bruising
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding from conditions such as endometriosis
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Extended bleeding from minor cuts, vaccinations, surgery, and dental procedures
  • Anemia, which causes pallor and weariness

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately for early diagnosis, and to prevent complications associated with specific blood disorders.

What are the treatment options?

A study suggests that the increasing awareness of hemostatic care, along with the recent and continuing advances in hemostatic products means that surgery in this challenging group of patients is safer than ever. Although progressive research reveals new directions for treating bleeding disorders, there is no known conventional cure for the disease.

Treatments can vary depending on the type of blood disorder and its severity, and medicine aids in controlling symptoms for most people. The standard prescriptions for bleeding disorders include:

  • Iron supplements. People who suffer from anemia are likely to have insufficient iron in the blood. Therefore, someone who is anemic may need iron supplements to normalize their level of red blood cells.
  • Hormones. Desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) is a man-made form of vasopressin or hormone commonly prescribed to patients with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia or von Willebrand’s disease. The treatment helps in releasing stored clotting factors into the blood, as well as prevent heavy periods and nosebleeds.
  • Birth control methods. Hormonal birth control pills assist in controlling heavy periods in women with certain bleeding disorders. Other birth control methods such as the vaginal ring and intrauterine hormonal device (IUD) help increase the clotting factors in the blood.
  • Antifibrinolytics. Those with blood disorders may be advised to take antifibrinolytics before undergoing dental surgery, to stop nosebleeds, or to control heavy menstrual periods. Antifibrinolytics are available as a pill or in liquid form. This medicine works by stopping blood clots from breaking down too quickly before the healing process begins.
  • Clotting factor concentrates. Through an intravenous tube, these clotting factor concentrates are added to the blood to control excessive bleeding. This particular type of treatment is an available option for surgery or when other treatments do not work.

Bear in mind that the misuse or abuse of any medication comes with various dangers. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before undergoing new medication.

Are there any complications?

When diagnosed with a bleeding disorder, it is highly recommended to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent dangerous complications, which occur when bleeding disorders are treated too late.

In general, the complications associated with this disease include bleeding in the intestines, joints, and the brain. However, bleeding disorders are particularly dangerous for women. Untreated blood disorders increase a woman’s risk of excessive bleeding during childbirth and menstrual periods. This can lead to anemia, a health condition that develops when the body lacks enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues. When the body has too few or abnormal red blood cells, life-threatening complications like anemia may develop.

When should you contact New Hope Medical Center?

Aside from bleeding disorders, there are also several cancers of the blood. If you have been diagnosed with hematologic cancer, contact us at 480-666-1403 to discuss your treatment options. You may also reach out to us by completing our online form.

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