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Raising Awareness for Bleeding Disorders

Though considered rare, millions are affected by blood-clotting disorders

Raising Awareness for Bleeding Disorders

Bleeding disorders are rare conditions that affect the body’s ability to form a clot, which leads to prolonged bleeding from injuries and surgery, and sometimes, spontaneous bleeding.

While these conditions are relatively rare, it’s a good idea to know their signs and symptoms and how they develop. 

For Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month, Jayanti Gery, RN, nurse manager of the Hemophilia Treatment Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg, shares answers to common questions people have about these conditions.

What are the main types of bleeding disorders?

There are 13 factors that control clotting in the human body. With bleeding disorders, the amount of one or more of these factors is low or not present at all.

While there are many conditions that fall into this category, two of the most common are von Willebrand disease and hemophilia.

What are the symptoms of bleeding disorders?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Bleeding into the muscles, soft tissue or joints
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts and during or after procedures
  • Frequent, unexplained bruising
  • Heavy periods
  • Nosebleeds that last longer than 10 minutes

Bleeding disorders are often genetically inherited. Depending on severity, symptoms are identified at birth or later in life (after injury or surgery).

“Some people are diagnosed as a child when they get a scrape and the cut keeps bleeding,” Gery says. “Others don’t know they have a bleeding disorder until they start their period or get their wisdom teeth out when they are older. It truly depends on the type of condition you have and your life experiences.”

What should I do if I think I have a bleeding disorder?

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should make an appointment with your primary care clinician. While they could be a sign of a bleeding disorder, they are most often caused by other conditions.

However, if additional testing reveals a bleeding disorder, you will need to see a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the blood).

Patients with bleeding disorders are specifically referred to hemophilia treatment centers, where clinicians who specialize in treating these conditions offer the latest treatments and advanced care.

"Treatment has changed for the better over the years, and our goal for patients with bleeding disorders now is for them to age without chronic pain or joint disease,” Gery says.

Does your child have a bleeding disorder?

A child who has inherited a bleeding disorder may experience mild or severe bleeding symptoms, such as:

  • Easy bruising of the skin
  • Bleeding from the gums or nose
  • Heavy bleeding after injuries or surgery
  • Heavy menstrual periods

Children with severe bleeding disorders often have bruising or too much bleeding noticed at or soon after birth. In these children, heavy bleeding can happen in the skin, gums and nose as well as their brain, intestines, joints or muscles after major, minor or no known injuries.

One of the most common types of bleeding disorders in children is hemophilia, which is an inherited bleeding disorder caused by deficient or missing clotting factors called factor VIII deficiency (or hemophilia A) or factor IX deficiency (or hemophilia B). This leads to prolonged bleeding following injuries or surgery and spontaneous bleeding. Over time, it also can lead to chronic health problems such as joint disease. However, if the disorder is managed properly, people with hemophilia can live long, healthy lives.

Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute’s Hemophilia Treatment Center

Often a hemophilia treatment center (HTC), such as the Hemophilia Treatment Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg, is the best choice for managing hemophilia, as studies show that people with hemophilia who receive care at an HTC are 40 percent less likely to die of a hemophilia-related complication. HTCs have emerged as specialized, multidisciplinary health care centers with unique expertise to meet the physical, psychosocial and emotional needs of people with hemophilia (factor VIII or IX deficiency) or a related bleeding condition such as factor XI deficiency, von Willebrand disease, other factor deficiencies or a defect in platelet function.

Founded over 30 years ago, the Hemophilia Treatment Center at LVH–Muhlenberg is one of approximately 150 HTCs in the United States. It’s now also a national leader in hemophilia care with the appointment of J. Nathan Hagstrom, MD, Physician in Chief of Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital and Chair of Pediatrics at Lehigh Valley Health Network, as the Regional Director for the Mid-Atlantic Region of federally funded HTCs.

Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg main (north) entrance

Bleeding Disorder Treatment at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute

Comprehensive care for these conditions.

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