The American Society of Hematology defines bleeding disorders as “a group of conditions that result when the blood cannot clot properly.” For clotting to occur, the body needs blood proteins called clotting factors and blood cells called platelets. The clotting factors and platelets form a plug to prevent blood from flowing out of any damaged blood vessel site.
There are different types of bleeding disorders. Hemophilia is the most well-known, but it is quite rare. The most common inherited bleeding disorder is von Willebrand disease. However, platelet disorders which are not inherited are the most common causes of bleeding disorders in the United States. Bleeding disorders may also be caused by low red blood cell count, vitamin K deficiency, or side effects from certain medications especially, anticoagulants.
In inherited bleeding disorders like hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, individuals are born without certain clotting factors in their blood. They may notice certain symptoms such as easy bruising, bleeding gums, unexplained nosebleeds, heavy bleeding from dental work and minor cuts, heavy menstrual bleeding, excessive bleeding following surgery, or bleeding into joints.
Complications from bleeding disorders can be dangerous, but are preventable, and can be controlled if treated early. Some complications are bleeding in the intestines, joints, and brain. In women, bleeding disorders can be especially dangerous if not treated quickly. Anemia is a serious complication that can arise from heavy bleeding when the body does not produce enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to the tissues. Symptoms of anemia are weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a significant loss of blood.