Von Willebrand Disorder

Von Willebrand Disorder

Last reviewed: June 2010

What is von Willebrand Disorder (VWD)?

Von Willebrand disorder (VWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder. People with VWD have a problem with a protein in their blood called von Willebrand factor (VWF) that helps control bleeding. They do not have enough of the protein or it does not work the way it should. It takes longer for blood to clot and for bleeding to stop.

How common is VWD?

VWD is the most common inherited bleeding disorder worldwide. It affects both males and females from all racial backgrounds.

Most people with VWD are born with the disorder as VWD is inherited genetically. Sometimes VWD will show up when the person is a child. Others don’t find out until they are adults and have a bleeding problem, or until a relative is diagnosed and it is suggested that they are tested as well.

It is estimated that VWD affects approximately 200,000 people in Australia, but most people will have few or no symptoms. Many people with VWD may not know they have the disorder because their bleeding symptoms are very mild. Research suggests that many people with VWD have not yet been diagnosed.

Usually VWD is less severe than other bleeding disorders, such as haemophilia. The form causing moderate bleeding problems is uncommon, and the severe form of VWD is rare.

Types

There are three main types of von Willebrand disorder. Bleeding symptoms can vary from person to person within each type.

  • Type 1 VWD is the most common form. Around 80% of all people with VWD have this form. In type 1 VWD, the von Willebrand Factor (VWF) works normally, but there is not enough of it. Symptoms are usually mild, depending on the level of VWF in the blood.

  • In type 2 VWD, the amount of VWF in people’s blood is often normal but the VWF doesn’t work properly. Type 2 VWD is divided into subtypes 2A, 2B, 2M and 2N. Certain subtypes may be treated differently, which makes knowing the exact type of VWD you have very important.

  • Type 3 VWD is very rare. People with type 3 VWD have very little or no VWF in their blood. Symptoms are more severe and can also include joint and muscle bleeding. Bleeding can occur more often.

Important Note: This information was developed by Haemophilia Foundation Australia for education and information purposes only and does not replace advice from a treating health professional. Always see your health care provider for assessment and advice about your individual health before taking action or relying on published information.

This information may be printed or photocopied for educational purposes.

Last Updated: 8th Apr 16