von Willebrand’s Disease

What is von Willebrand’s Disease?

von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is the most common type of bleeding disorder. People with vWD have a problem with a protein in their blood called von Willebrand’s Factor (vWF) that helps control bleeding. When a blood vessel is injured and bleeding occurs, vWF helps cells in the blood, called platelets, mesh together and form a clot to stop the bleeding. People with vWD do not have enough vWF or it does not work the way it should. It takes longer for blood to clot and for bleeding to stop.

vWD is generally less severe than other bleeding disorders. Many people with vWD may not know that they have the disorder because their bleeding symptoms are very mild. For most people with vWD, the disorder causes little or no disruption to their lives except when there is a serious injury or need for surgery. However, with all forms of vWD, there can be bleeding problems.

It is estimated that up to 1% of the world’s population has vWD. Many with mild vWD will not require treatment. Research has shown that as many as 9 out of 10 people with vWD have not been diagnosed.

There are three main types of vWD. Within each type, the disorder can be mild, moderate or severe. Bleeding symptoms can be quite variable within each type depending in part on the vWF activity. It is important to know which type of vWD a person has because treatment is different for each type.

Type 1 vWD is the most common form. People with Type 1 vWD have lower than normal levels of vWF. Symptoms are usually very mild. Still, it is possible for someone with Type 1 vWD to have serious bleeding.

Type 2 vWD involves a defect in the vWF structure. The vWF protein does not work properly, causing lower than normal vWF activity. There are various Type 2 vWD defects. Symptoms are usually moderate.

Type 3 vWD is usually the most serious form. People with Type 3 vWD have very little or no vWF. Symptoms are more severe. People with Type 3 vWD can have bleeding into muscles and joints, sometimes without injury.

von Willebrand’s Disease affects both men and women. However, because vWD can cause heavy menstrual bleeding and prolonged bleeding after childbirth, more women than men have noticeable symptoms.

Click here to download the I.H.S. Von Willebrands Disease Booklet

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