Bleeding Disorders: Types, Causes & Diagnosis
What is a bleeding disorder?
A bleeding disorder is a condition that affects the process of blood clotting in your body. Blood clotting occurs through a process known as coagulation. When your blood clots, it changes from a liquid to a solid. When a person gets injured, the blood begins to clot to prevent massive blood loss. However, in some cases, certain conditions may prevent the blood from clotting as well as it should, resulting in prolonged or heavy bleeding.
Bleeding disorders cause abnormal bleeding both inside and outside the body. Some bleeding disorders can cause much blood to leave your body. Other conditions cause bleeding in vital organs, like the brain or under the skin.
What causes the bleeding disorder?
Bleeding disorders develop when the blood cannot clot properly. For the blood to clot, the body requires proteins. These blood proteins are known as clotting factors and platelets. Platelets clump to form a plug at the injured or damaged blood vessel site. The clotting factors combine to create a plug at the site of injury. The clotting factors then unite to form a fibrin clot. This keeps the platelets in place and prevents the outflow of blood from the vessel.
In people suffering from bleeding disorders, the platelets or clotting factors don’t function as well as they should. When blood fails to clot, prolonged or excessive bleeding can occur. This can result in min sudden or spontaneous bleeding in the joints, muscles, or other body parts.
Most bleeding disorders are inherited. This means that they are transferred from parent to child. Sometimes, certain infections may develop due to underlying medical conditions, like liver disease.
Other factors that may cause bleeding disorders to include:
- Vitamin K deficiency
- A low red blood cell count
- Side effects from some medications
Medications that affect or interfere with blood clotting are known as anticoagulants.
Types of bleeding disorders
Bleeding disorders can be acquired or inherited. Acquired disorders occur spontaneously late in life, while inherited disorders are passed down via genetics. Bleeding disorders may result in hemorrhage or severe bleeding following an injury or accident. In addition, some underlying disorders can trigger heavy bleeding suddenly.
There are different types of bleeding disorders. The common ones include:
- Hemophilia A and B. Both are conditions that occur due to low clotting factors in the blood. Hemophilia causes unusual or heavy bleeding into the joints. Although rare, hemophilia can be fatal.
- Factors II, V, VII, X, or XII deficiencies. These disorders are associated with abnormal bleeding conditions or blood clotting problems.
- Von Willebrand’s disease. This is the most typical inherited bleeding disorder. It is caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor, promoting blood clotting.
Symptoms of a bleeding disorder
Symptoms of bleeding disorder vary immensely. The sign depends on the type of disorder that a person experiences. However, the significant symptoms include:
- Bleeding in the joints
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Heavy periods or menstrual bleeding
- Easy or unexplained bruising
- Heavy bleeding from minor injuries or cuts
Schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. Your healthcare provider can diagnose your condition and help you to prevent whatever complications might arise from the disorder.
Diagnosing a bleeding disorder
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your symptoms to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination. While meeting with your doctor, be sure to ask about:
- Any underlying medical conditions you may have
- Any supplements or medications you may be taking
- Any recent trauma or falls
- The duration of your bleeding
- How often you experience the bleeding
After getting this information, your healthcare provider will conduct specific tests to make a proper diagnosis. These tests include:
- A complete blood count determines the amount of red and white blood cells in the body.
- A bleeding time test to determine the speed at which your blood clots
- Platelet aggregation test to check how well the platelets clump together
Treatment for bleeding disorders
Treatment options vary depending on the type of bleeding disorder and the severity. It is important to note that no treatment can cure bleeding disorders, but they can relieve the symptoms associated with specific conditions.
Treatments usually include:
- Iron supplementation
- Blood transfusion
Complications of bleeding disorders
Common complications associated with bleeding disorders include:
- Bleeding in the intestines
- Joint pain
- Bleeding into the brain
- Bleeding into the joints
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.