Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a bleeding disorder. People with VWD have low levels of a blood protein called von Willebrand factor, or the factor doesn’t work. Von Willebrand factor also carries clotting factor VIII, so people with VWD might not have enough of that clotting factor either. Any of those issues can cause blood clotting problems and heavy bleeding.
VWD is more common than any other inherited bleeding disorder, affecting up to 1 percent of the population. It is like hemophilia but is usually milder. Symptoms depend on the type and severity of the disorder; some patients do not even know they have VWD. The disorder is usually inherited, although other medical conditions can cause it. Even patients with one VWD gene who never display symptoms can pass the gene to their children.
Type 1 VWD, the mildest and most common type, is caused by low levels of von Willebrand factor and possibly low levels of factor VIII.
Type 2 Von Willebrand Disease
Type 2 VWD occurs when the von Willebrand factor doesn’t work. Different mutations can cause four different subtypes of Type 2 VWD. It is important for Type 2 patients to know their subtype, since each is treated differently.
People with types 1 and 2 generally have mild to moderate symptoms, including frequent, large bruising; frequent nosebleeds; blood in the urine or stool; heavy bleeding after accidents or surgery; and prolonged bleeding after dental work. Both types are caused by a faulty gene from one parent. Type 1 and 2 patients might not be diagnosed until an episode of heavy bleeding.
Type 3 Von Willebrand Disease
Type 3 VWD is the rarest and most severe form, occurs when patients have low factor VIII levels and no von Willebrand factor. Type 3 patients can have the same symptoms as Type 1 and Type 2 patients. They can also have unexplained, severe bleeding episodes, as well as pain and swelling from blood leaking into joints and soft tissues. Women might have heavier menstrual bleeding. Type 3 patients are usually diagnosed in infancy due to the severity of the disorder.
If you have VWD, you can take steps to prevent bleeding and stay healthy. It is important to communicate openly with your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers. They can recommend physical activity and tell you what medications are safe for you.
Consider wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace if you have a serious form of VWD (for example, Type 3). You might consider ordering a Diplomat StrapWrap® medical alert device. In case of a serious accident or injury, the health care team treating you will know you have VWD.
Alphanate helps control bleeding during surgical procedures. It is used for Type 1 and Type 2 VWD patients who don’t respond to DDAVP or who react adversely to it. Learn more at alphanate.com.
Humate-P is used to help VWD patients treat bleeding that occurs spontaneously or from trauma. It is also used to prevent bleeding during and after surgery for patients with severe VWD, as well as for patients with milder VWD who don’t respond to DDAVP. Learn more at humate-p.com.
Wilate is used to control bleeding in patients with VWD and to manage bleeding before, during, and after surgery. Learn more at wilateusa.com.