Bleeding disorders can afflict anybody: at any age, of any sex, with various degrees of severity. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bleeding disorders pose a heightened threat to women, affecting not only their immediate well-being but their reproductive health as well. If left untreated, these conditions might also lead to anemia and dangerous bleeding after childbirth. Here’s a list of three major bleeding disorders which affect women (and men), and the signs that should prompt you to get checked.
Von Willebrand disease (VWD)
The CDC recognizes this disease as the most common of the disorders found in up to 1 percent of the entire U.S population. Von Willebrand disease occurs in individuals with low levels of, or a malfunction in, the von Willebrand factor: a protein in the blood which helps the body stop bleeding. For instance, when you get a cut, it is the von Willebrand factor which forms clots at the site of the injury to regulate bleeding and help you heal. When the von Willebrand Factor isn’t working properly, minor injuries can lead to heavy and often dangerous bleeding.
While it affects both men and women equally, women are more inclined to recognize symptoms due to abnormal heavy menstrual bleeding. Some other hallmark signs of VWD are frequent nosebleeds, easy bruising and longer-than-normal bleeding after an injury. It is encouraged that you get checked if you experience any abnormal or prolonged bleeding.
Also called factor VIII or classic hemophilia, hemophilia A is an inherited blood disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. It occurs in people with low levels of factor VIII (a clotting protein), making the regulation of bleeding after an injury difficult.
While hemophilia A is rarer in women than in men, it might pose complications for female carriers such as anemia and heavy bleeding after childbirth.
On staying watchful and taking necessary precautions, the CDC and the National Hemophilia Foundation suggest to “Do the 5!”:
- Get an annual comprehensive checkup at a hemophilia treatment center.
- Get vaccinated—Hepatitis A and B are preventable.
- Treat bleeds early and adequately.
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight to protect your joints.
- Get tested regularly for blood-borne infections.
Venous thromboembolism (blood clots)
According to the CDC, deep vein thrombosis is a critical and often under-diagnosed condition which afflicts both men and women. It occurs when a blood clot develops in a deep vein – often in the lower leg, thigh, pelvis or arm. This clot, if broken, can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, or a blockage in the lungs.
While there are many risk factors – including injury to a vein, slow blood flow and chronic medical illnesses, such as heart and lung diseases – women with increased estrogen levels are at a heightened risk for developing DVT. If you take birth control, hormone replacement therapies, or have increased estrogen levels due to pregnancy, you might have a higher chance of developing this condition.