Health Team

Bleeding Disorder a Danger for Young Women

The blood disorder Von Willebrand Disease has often been undiagnosed.

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — When it comes to bleeding disorders, most people have heard of hemophilia. It's rare and almost always affects only males. But Von Willebrand Disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder and affects about 1 percent  of the population
The disease affects both sexes and can become a life-threatening problem, especially for young women.

In the past Von Willebrand Disease– where the blood lacks a protein to help it clot – has often been undiagnosed.

“Doctors didn’t have the ability to diagnose the condition so families just went around saying they were ‘bleeders,’” said Duke obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Andra James.

Patients with the disease get bruises that are typically large and tend to linger; frequent nose bleeds; and cuts that take longer than normal to heal.

There are three types of Von Willebrand Disease. Type 1 is the mildest form, with people not knowing they even have it until serious problems arise. Type 3 is the most severe, causing patients to need regular intravenous infusions.

Young women are most at risk of life-threatening problems, including heavier than normal menstrual bleeding and potential problems with giving birth.

Denise Kent, 34, inherited the bleeding disorder from her father. When faced with giving birth to her son, Kent had to take special precautions to prevent bleeding to death.

“So basically, it meant that she had an intravenous infusion every day for several weeks,” James said.

The drugs infusions helped Kent’s blood clot after birth. The infusions were given for a few weeks after she brought little Creighton Kent home, too.

There’s a 50 percent chance Creighton, now 3 months old, has inherited the disease, but his first blood test has shown no signs of it.


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