When you get an injury, you take the clotting for granted, going as far as lamenting the ugly ‘scab’ that covers the wound for the next few days. But do you ever step back and wonder at this wonderful mechanism that actually prevents you from bleeding yourself out from even the minutest of bruises? This is a blessing for the majority of us, but a small percentage suffers from what are known as bleeding disorders.
What are Bleeding Disorders
Bleeding disorders affect the normal clotting process of the blood. They can cause abnormal bleeding both outside and inside the body. Some acute conditions can significantly increase the amount of blood leaving your body, while others can cause bleeding to occur under the skin or in vital organs, such as the brain.
Causes of Bleeding Disorders
The process of clotting requires clotting factors which are blood proteins and blood cells known as platelets. When there is an abnormality in these factors and cells, or when they are not present in the required amounts in the blood, the condition interferes with the normal clotting process leading to excessive or prolonged bleeding.
Bleeding disorders are usually inherited. However, some may develop as a result of certain medical conditions, such as liver disease.
Types of Bleeding Disorders
There are many types of bleeding disorders and listed here are some of the most common amongst them:
- Haemophilia – There are two types A and B, and both conditions occur when the level of clotting factors is lesser than normal. In this case, the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced. Though haemophilia is rare, it can have life-threatening complications.
- Factor II, V, VII, X, or XII deficiencies in the blood also cause clotting problems and abnormal bleeding problems.
- Von Willebrand’s disease – This is one of the most common inherited bleeding disorder. The disease is linked to the lack of the von Willebrand factor, which helps the blood to clot.
- Thrombocytopenia – This is a condition related to abnormally low levels of thrombocytes, commonly known as platelets. Thrombocytopenia shows no symptoms, but can be detected during a blood checkup.
- Thalassemia – Thalassemia is a condition related to abnormal haemoglobin production and often leads to minor to severe anaemia. This blood disorder is genetically inherited.
Treatment of Bleeding Disorders
There is no real cure for bleeding disorders, but treatment can help alleviate the symptoms associated with certain disorders.
1. Iron Supplements
Iron deficiencies are common in people with bleeding disorders and iron supplements can help replenish the amount of iron in your body loses if you have significant blood loss.
2. Blood transfusion
A blood transfusion may be required if symptoms such as weakness don’t improve with iron supplementation. This procedure can only be done at the hospital.
3. Other treatments
Few bleeding disorders may be treated with topical products while others, including hemophilia, can be treated with factor replacement therapy. This involves injecting clotting factor concentrates into the bloodstream. Fresh frozen plasma transfusions are also an option.