Bleeding Facts

  • Do you suffer really heavy periods?
  • Do your periods last a long time?
  • Did you suffer bleeding after you had a baby?
  • If you accidentally cut yourself, does it take a long time to stop bleeding?
  • Do you bruise really easily?
  • Do you often get nosebleeds which can last for ages?
  • Does your mouth bleed after you’ve been to the dentist?
  • If you had an operation, did you bleed for a long time afterwards?

If you answered yes to one – or maybe more than one – of these questions then it could be that you have what is known as a ‘bleeding disorder’.

What are bleeding disorders?

A bleeding disorder is a problem with the system the body uses to clot the blood. Blood travels around the body via a network of blood vessels (called veins, arteries and capillaries). If we cut our skin or bruise ourselves, this causes damage to one of these blood vessels and we bleed.

Blood clotting is the body’s process of stopping this bleeding to allow the blood vessel to heal. This process is known as coagulation. Coagulation is controlled by special proteins in the blood known as clotting factors.

When a blood vessel is damaged, special blood cells called platelets clump together to form a plug over the damage to the blood vessel. Then the clotting factors in the blood work together to form a clot to cover the damaged part of the blood vessel and stop the bleeding.

When someone has a bleeding disorder they may not have enough of one the special blood clotting factors, or one of the factors may not work properly. This means the person bleeds for longer than someone who does not have a bleeding disorder.

How does a person get a bleeding disorder?

Generally, people are born with a bleeding disorder, which they inherit from one (or sometimes both) of their parents. You cannot catch a bleeding disorder from someone like you catch a cold.

Bleeding disorders are caused by an abnormal gene. Genes carry messages about the way the body’s cells will develop as a baby grows up. Genes are what determine a person’s hair and eye colour, for example. Sometimes a person can have a bleeding disorder even if no-one else in their family has it. This is called a ‘spontaneous mutation’ and is caused by a change in the person’s own genes.

Types of bleeding disorders

Common bleeding disorders

  • Von Willebrand Disease (VWD)
  • Haemophilia A
  • Haemophilia B

Rare clotting factor deficiencies

  • factor II (2) deficiency
  • factor V (5) deficiency
  • combined factor V (5) and VIII (8) deficiency
  • factor VII (7) deficiency
  • factor 10 (X)
  • factor XI (11) deficiency
  • factor XIII (13) deficiency
  • Inherited platelet function disorders
  • Glanzmann Thrombasthenia
  • Bernard-Soulier syndrome