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Health Information For Teens
Von Willebrand disease, or VWD, is a genetic (inherited) bleeding disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Bleeding disorders (including hemophilia) are rare. Von Willebrand disease is the most common bleeding disorder, and affects males and females equally.
Normally, when a blood vessel is cut or torn, bleeding stops because of the blood’s ability to clot (to plug the hole in the blood vessel and stop the flow of blood). This complex process involves platelets and proteins called clotting factors.
Von Willebrand factor is involved in the early stages of blood clotting, and also carries the important clotting protein factor VIII. In people with VWD, the amount of Von Willebrand factor clotting protein in the blood is lower than normal or doesn’t work as it should.
Many teens with VWD have such mild symptoms that they never know they have it. Those with a more severe form of the disease, though, need a treatment plan to help them reduce bleeding symptoms.
Symptoms of Von Willebrand disease can include:
There are various forms of VWD:
Like hemophilia, VWD is a genetic disorder. Usually, it’s passed from parent to child, but sometimes can happen after birth. The child of a man or a woman with VWD has a 50% chance of getting the gene.
A child also can inherit the gene and show no symptoms, but still can pass the gene on to any offspring.
Because symptoms can be mild, VWD can be hard to diagnose and often isn’t found.
If a doctor thinks you have VWD, he or she will examine you and ask about your medical history. Your
includes things like your past health, your family’s health, and any medicines you’re taking.
The doctor also may send a blood sample to a lab for tests. Tests might need to be repeated because the levels they detect may rise and fall over time.
The most common treatment for VWD is desmopressin. This synthetic (manmade) hormone causes a temporary increase in the Von Willebrand factor and factor VIII levels. It can be given as an injection or a nasal spray. But it doesn’t work for everyone and may not be helpful in treating type 2. Some patients will need treatment with an intravenous (IV, given into a vein) form of Von Willebrand factor.
Medicine to slow or prevent the breakdown of blood clots also might be used, and fibrin glue can be put directly on a wound to stop bleeding.
Treatments for girls with heavy menstrual bleeding from VWD also might include birth control pills or an IUD that contains the hormone
Find out about the mysterious, life-sustaining fluid called blood.
Genes play an important role in how we look and act, and even in whether we get sick. This article gives the lowdown on genes, genetic disorders, and new research into gene therapy.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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