Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month image

March is National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

March 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

As a Stanford Blood Center donor, each time you donate, you could potentially save a life… it could be someone with cancer, a trauma victim, or even someone with a rare bleeding disorder. March is National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month, so we thought we’d share some information you might not know about bleeding disorders.

What is a bleeding disorder?

First things first, what is a bleeding disorder? If you have a bleeding disorder, your blood doesn’t clot properly. Clotting helps your body heal after injury to a blood vessel (anything from a small cut to major trauma). Your body constricts the flow of blood, then sends platelets to plug the hole in the vessel. Once these platelets stick together, the body sends a clotting factor (e.g., factor V, factor VIII) protein to the site. Failure to clot properly can be caused by a low level or lack of factor, a lack of platelets, or a problem that prevents the platelets from sticking to each other or the injured blood vessel). This, in turn, can cause uncontrollable bleeding which can be very painful for the individual and has potential long-term consequences

What are some types of bleeding disorders?

There are multiple types of bleeding disorders, which are usually genetic but can be acquired. Some of the most common (though still extremely rare) bleeding disorders include Hemophilia and von Willebrand Disease.

Hemophilia affects roughly 20,000 Americans — approximately 400 babies are born with hemophilia in the U.S. each year, and 400,000 people are living with it worldwide.  Mostly males are affected, as it is linked to X chromosomes. Symptoms include nose bleeds, prolonged bleeding from minor cuts, and easy or unexplained bruising. There are four types of hemophilia:

  • Hemophilia A (which is four times more common than Hemophilia B, and occurs when clotting factor VIII levels are deficient),
  • Hemophilia B (which, also known as Christmas Disease, occurs when clotting factor IX levels are deficient),
  • Hemophilia C (which occurs when factor XI levels are deficient), and
  • Acquired Hemophilia, in which a person develops hemophilia from an illness medications, or pregnancy. This is extremely rare and is usually resolved through proper treatment.

Von Willebrand Disease (vWD), which affects 1% of the American population, is the most common bleeding disorder. Unlike hemophilia, it affects males and females equally. The symptoms of vWD can be quite mild, so people often have not been diagnosed or are not diagnosed until later in life. Those affected by vWD either do not have vWD factor (vWF) or the factor simply doesn’t function properly, which means their blood won’t form a proper clot at a bleeding site. There are five types of vWD:

  • vWD Type 1 ­(which is the most common form of vWD, and occurs when your vWF works properly, but you don’t have enough in your bloodstream),
  • vWD Type 2 (which occurs when you have plenty of vWF but it doesn’t function properly, so you still have bleeds),
  • vWD Type 3 (is the rarest type, only 1 in one million people have it, and you typically have no vVF, which means you can have spontaneous bleeds in your joints or muscles),
  • Acquired vWD (which typically occurs in individuals over 40 as a result of another disease such as tumor cell adhesion), and
  • Psuedo-vWD (which occurs when your vWF levels are fine and they work properly, but your platelet receptors in your blood sometimes bind inactive platelets with vWF). 

How Can I Help?

If you’d like to spread awareness about rare bleeding disorders like hemophilia and vWD, you can visit the Hemophilia Federation of America website to find out ways can help!

Rare bleeding disorders often require whole blood or platelet transfusions, so it’s incredibly important that you come in to donate if you can. To make an appointment (and potentially save the life of someone with a bleeding disorder), please visit or give us a call at 888-723-7831.