Could you have a bleeding disorder?

Do you have unexplained nosebleeds, heavy menstrual periods or find yourself bruising easily? You may have a bleeding disorder.

A bleeding disorder is a group of conditions that affect the way your blood clots. Clotting changes blood from a liquid to a solid. For example, if you get injured, your blood begins to clot to prevent you from losing a lot of blood. If a bleeding disorder prevents this natural process, you land up with excessive bleeding.

Bleeding disorders can cause abnormal bleeding inside or outside your body. This may take place under your skin or in organs like the brain.

Symptoms include extended bleeding after drawing blood, minor cuts, vaccinations or dental procedures. Also, watch for excessive bruising, bleeding in soft tissue, muscles and joints, unexplained nosebleeds and heavy periods.

What causes bleeding disorders?

Bleeding disorders may be caused by a low red blood count, a Vitamin K deficiency or side-effects from some medications that affect blood clotting. Bleeding disorders can also be inherited or appear suddenly with no warning.

There are several different types of bleeding disorders, but the most common include:

  • Haemophilia A and B. This condition develops when there are low levels of clotting factors in your blood that helps with the clotting process (e.g. factor VII).
  • Von Willebrand’s disease. The most common inherited bleeding disorder. It develops when your blood lacks proteins that help with clotting.
  • Factor II, V, VII, X and XII deficiencies. Bleeding disorders related to blood clotting problems or abnormal bleeding problems.

Treatment

This depends on how severe your disorder is. Treatments can’t cure bleeding disorders, but they help manage symptoms.

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Blood transfusion

Blood loss caused by a bleeding disorder can be replaced with a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is when donated blood that matches your blood type is used to replace the blood you’ve lost. This takes place in a hospital. If you lack certain factors, transfusions can be done with fresh frozen plasma (colourless liquid in your blood).

Iron supplements

When you lose blood, your iron levels dip. Low iron levels can make you feel tired, weak and dizzy. Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements to replace the iron you’ve lost.

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent clots from dissolving. The medication will depend on which bleeding disorder you have.

Other treatments

A bleeding disorder like haemophilia can be treated with factor replacement therapy. During this therapy, clotting factor is injected into your bloodstream. This helps prevent and control excessive bleeding. Other bleeding disorders may be treated with oils, creams, lotions or nasal sprays.

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