Bleeding disorder symptoms: What parents should know

Bleeding disorders are a rare group of conditions that affect blood clotting. What are the symptoms of bleeding disorders? What should parents know?

Bleeding disorders are a rare group of conditions that affect blood clotting. The human body has 13 blood clotting factors — blood components such as clotting proteins and platelets — that work together to help blood clot. Should any of these clotting factors be missing or deficient, blood clotting is affected, causing a bleeding disorder. What are the symptoms of bleeding disorders?

Types of bleeding disorders

Bleeding disorders can be genetic, or inherited, but some bleeding disorders can be acquired due to other conditions or medications. Two of the most common bleeding disorders are genetic: hemophilia and Von Willebrand disease (VWD).

There are 30,000 to 33,000 people living with hemophilia in the U.S., according to the National Hemophilia Foundation. The two most common types of hemophilia are:

  • Hemophilia A: This type is the most common, occurring in about 1 in 5,000 male births. About 400 babies are born each year with hemophilia A.
  • Hemophilia B: The second most common type, it occurs in about 1 in 25,000 male births.

Hemophilia can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the clotting factors available in a person’s blood.

Von Willebrand disease is the most common bleeding disorder, affecting 1 in every 100 people, according to the National Hemophilia Foundation. An individual can have Von Willebrand disease regardless of gender, but patients who have menstrual cycles often experience more symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that it takes an average of 16 years from the onset of symptoms for a person assigned female at birth to be diagnosed with VWD.

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Bleeding disorder symptoms

Symptoms of bleeding disorders, as well as their severity, are affected by the type of bleeding disorder and the amount of clotting factors in an individual’s blood.

Von Willebrand disease symptoms

  • Easy bruising
  • Unexplained, frequent nosebleeds
  • Heavy, long-lasting periods during menstruation
  • Longer-lasting bleeding after minor injuries or procedures (dental work, etc.)
  • Bleeding in mucous membranes, such as gums, nose, lining of gastrointestinal system

Hemophilia symptoms

A child with hemophilia may experience symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding easily: Minor injuries can cause more bleeding than usual. Bleeding from the nose, mouth and gums may occur often.
  • Bruising: Minor injuries can cause bruising, which can result in a buildup of blood under the skin, causing swelling (hematoma).
  • Bleeding into joints: Bleeding in the joints, such as the knees, elbows and ankles can cause swelling, redness and pain. Pressure on the tissues in these areas can cause damage.
  • Blood in the urine or stool

How are bleeding disorders diagnosed?

If your family has a history of bleeding disorders, testing soon after birth is available. However, new mutations of genes can cause a bleeding disorder in families with no history. A pediatrician can order testing if a baby or child is showing signs of a bleeding disorder. Testing would include tests to see if the blood is clotting appropriately. If it is not, clotting factor testing, called factor assays, would be done to find the cause and severity of the bleeding disorder.