Bleeding disorders are more common than most people realize, and often go undiagnosed. The most common type of bleeding disorder is von Willebrand disease (VWD), a condition in which the blood does not clot properly. When injury occurs in patients with VWD, clots usually take longer to form and bleeding is more difficult to stop.
There are three types of VWD and each ranges in severity. Because some medications can aggravate the symptoms of VWD, early diagnosis is key. Unfortunately, the disease can be difficult to diagnose.
People with VWD may have frequent or hard-to-stop nosebleeds that happen spontaneously, occur five or more times a year, and last longer than 10 minutes. VWD sufferers also bruise more often and tend to bleed longer than normal after injury.
Women with VWD also tend to have heavier than normal menstrual periods that last more than seven days, include clots larger than a quarter, soak through a pad or tampon hourly or more often, or result in a diagnosis of anemia.
People who have symptoms of VWD should consult their doctors. There are important measures these patients need to follow in order to have a more fulfilling life. For example, these patients need to avoid medicines that thin the blood, including over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
There are also prescription blood thinners that should be avoided, including warfarin and the newly approved Pradaxa. These medications carry a risk of internal bleeding, including in the gastrointestinal tract and brain. While there are medications that can help with clotting, and medications to counter the effects of warfarin, there is no antidote for Pradaxa.
Pradaxa was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2010. Since then, there have been several reports of spontaneous bleeding events, some of which have resulted in death. The FDA is currently investigating Pradaxa and whether it poses a safety risk.
Source: Healthy Women