What is a “bleeder”?

You’re amazing. No, really – you are. Just think about your blood, as an example! Blood is a transport system that keeps the whole universe of YOU supplied. It carries in everything your cells need to work, and then it takes all the garbage out afterwards! Your white cells fight infection, and your blood’s platelets know when to clot if you’re injured. Unless you have haemophilia.

What is haemophilia?

Haemophilia is a blood clotting disorder. It happens when you don’t have enough clotting factor (a protein that helps to control bleeding) in your blood. While it can’t be cured, haemophilia can be managed.

There are 2 types of haemophilia:

  1. Haemophilia A is caused when there is not enough clotting factor VIII in the blood, and this is the most common type.
  2. Haemophilia B happens when there’s not enough clotting factor IX in the blood, and it’s also known as Christmas disease. (No, it has nothing to do with trees and presents – the first patient to be recorded with this condition’s name was Stephen Christmas!)

Who gets haemophilia?

If you’re a man, you’re more likely to suffer from haemophilia. While it affects people of all races, the most serious forms of haemophilia mostly only affects males. Women are only at risk if the mother is a carrier and the father has haemophilia, but this is very rare. Women who are carriers usually have symptoms of mild haemophilia.

How Dangerous is the bleeding?

If you have haemophilia, you may find a cut or scratch bleeds a little longer than for other people, but your real concern is internal bleeding! Haemophilia sufferers can bleed internally as a result of surgery or injury, but it can also happen for no obvious reason. Such bleeds may be into joints – such as your elbows or knees – filling the cavities in the joint. These bleeds are rarely deadly, but they do need treatment. It’s important to have regular check-ups.

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Treatment of Haemophilia

  1. Preventative treatment is when clotting-factor medication is used to prevent any bleeding episodes and joint and muscle damage
  2. On-demand treatment is given as synthetic hormone or clotting factor medication to manage an episode of bleeding that is already happening.

If I have Haemophilia, can I still Take Part In Sport?

Yes! In fact, it’s good for strengthening muscles and joints, which helps to prevent bleeds. Just avoid rough contact sports like boxing or rugby as cuts and bruises are a problem for bleeders!

If you have haemophilia, learn everything you can about managing the condition and get regular check-ups with your GP. For more information, see the South African Haemophilia Foundation’s site.

Sources: Haemophilia.org, NHS.uk