About von Willebrand disease (VWD)

People with VWD (also known as von Willebrand disorder) 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.

VWD is the most common inherited bleeding disorder worldwide. The altered gene causing VWD is passed on from parent to child. VWD affects males and females equally.

Most people with VWD have few or no symptoms and it causes little disruption to their lives, except when they have a serious injury or need surgery. As a result, many have not yet been diagnosed. Some people with VWD have bleeding episodes more often, and people with the severe form can often have bleeding into muscles and joints with no obvious cause, similar to severe haemophilia.  There can be bleeding problems with all forms of VWD.

Common symptoms

Bleeding in VWD usually involves the mucous membranes, the delicate tissues that line body passages such as the nose, mouth, uterus, vagina, stomach and intestines.

Symptoms vary from person to person, even in the same family, and can include:

  • nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums
  • bruising easily
  • bleeding for a long time with minor cuts
  • very heavy or long menstrual periods
  • excessive bleeding after injury, surgery or dental work, or after childbirth.

Several treatments are available, depending on what is appropriate for type of VWD and the individual at the time. This includes synthetic hormones such as desmopressin (DDAVP) and clotting factor concentrate made with von Willebrand factor and factor VIII.

Haemophilia Foundation Australia. About bleeding disorders. Melbourne: HFA, 2018.

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