Von Willebrand Disorder
Von Willebrand Disorder, also known as von Willebrand disease (VWD), is a bleeding disorder that affects the blood’s ability to clot. People with VWD have low levels of a protein involved in blood clotting, von Willebrand Factor (VWF) in their blood, or their VWF doesn’t work very well, so it takes longer for bleeding to stop.
If your blood doesn’t clot properly, you can have bleeding symptoms such as easy bruising, nosebleeds, and heavy periods. It may also be hard to stop bleeding after injury or surgery.
It is the most common inherited bleeding disorder, affecting thousands of people in the UK. It affects males and females equally though women may experience more problems linked to periods, pregnancy and childbirth. There is currently no cure for VWD.
VWD is almost always inherited. This means it is passed from parents to children through their genes. You can inherit type 1 & 2 VWD which are all passed on in an autosomal dominant manner. This means that only one of your parents passes a faulty VWF gene on to you. For each pregnancy, there is a one in two chance that the child will have VWD.
You can inherit type 3 VWD if both your parents pass a faulty VWF gene onto you (autosomal recessive manner). Your symptoms may be quite different from your parent or parents’ symptoms.
In some cases, you can have a faulty VWF gene without any symptoms of VWD. However, you can still pass the faulty VWF gene on to your children.
For most people with VWD, the disorder causes little or no disruption to their lives except when there is a serious injury or need for surgery. However, with all forms of VWD, there can be bleeding problems, and in occasional severe cases, internal bleeding to muscles and joints can occur in a similar way to haemophilia.
More information is available in our Understanding von Willebrand Disorder booklet.