Von Willebrand Disease (VWD)

Von Willebrand Disease

What is von Willebrand disease? — Von Willebrand disease is a bleeding disorder. People with the disorder sometimes bruise easily or bleed too much when they get cut.
Von Willebrand disease is caused by an abnormal gene and runs in families. In some cases, a family might not know about it if the disease is mild. Rarely, people can get a kind of von Willebrand "syndrome" because of another condition, rather than a gene.
What are the symptoms of von Willebrand disease? — The symptoms of von Willebrand disease are often mild. For some people, the symptoms are so mild that they never have problems.
If you have von Willebrand disease, you might:
Get nosebleeds a lot or have nosebleeds that last a long time
Notice that your gums sometimes bleed for no reason
Bruise easily and form lumps under your bruises
Bleed more than normal when having medical procedures or surgery
Bleed when you take aspirin or other medicines that prevent blood clots
In women, symptoms can also include:
Very heavy or long-lasting periods – For instance, your periods might last longer than 7 to 10 days and have large blood clots.
Very heavy bleeding after giving birth.
Is there a test for von Willebrand disease? — Yes. If your doctor or nurse suspects you have von Willebrand disease, he or she can check for it with a blood test. He or she will also want to know as much as possible about the way you have bled in the past. Plus, your doctor or nurse will want to know if any of your family members have the disorder or have had problems with bleeding or bruising.
Is there anything I can do on my own to reduce bleeding? — Yes. You can follow these tips:
Do not take medicines that have aspirin, or medicines called "NSAIDs" without talking to your doctor first. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve). These medicines can make bleeding worse.
Be extra safe about preventing injuries if your doctor tells you to. For example, you might need to avoid contact sports, like hockey or football.
Plan ahead for surgery or childbirth. If you are going to have surgery or any procedure that might make you bleed, talk to your doctor or nurse about your condition first. Do the same if you are going to have a baby. That way your doctor or nurse can be ready with the right medicines if you start to bleed too much.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about heavy periods. There are different ways to reduce menstrual bleeding.
How is von Willebrand disease treated? — There are many medicines used to treat von Willebrand disease. These medicines come in shots, pills, gels, and nasal sprays. You and your doctor or nurse might have to try a few different treatment approaches before you find the one that works best for you.
If you have lost a lot of blood, you might need to take iron supplements.
What if I want to have a baby? — If you want to have a baby, you will need to be watched closely during your pregnancy. This way, serious bleeding can be prevented or treated. Also, you will need to talk with your doctor about whether you can get an epidural or spinal block during labor. You might need other treatments to reduce your risk of bleeding.
Most women do not need treatment while they are pregnant, because von Willebrand disease is usually less severe during pregnancy. But after the baby is born, some women can start to have serious bleeding. For 1 to 3 weeks after giving birth, women often need to take extra medicines to prevent bleeding.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15887 Version 7.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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