Hemophilia: Don’t let it bleed you out!

Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn’t clot normally. It can take a long time for a person to stop bleeding if he is suffering from hemophilia. Sometimes, it can cause internal bleeding in the knees, ankles, and elbows which can damage the tissues and may be life threatening.

World Hemophilia Day is observed on April 17 to raise awareness about the bleeding disorder and increase support for those living with the disorder. Hemophilia is usually an inherited bleeding disorder which is passed from parents to children. People with hemophilia have little or no clotting factor which is very important for normal blood clotting. Rarely, hemophilia can be acquired when the body forms antibodies (proteins) that attack the clotting factors in the bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms of hemophilia

Excessive bleeding and easy bruising are the major signs of hemophilia. However, the extent of bleeding depends on the severity of hemophilia. Following are some of the emergency symptoms to recognize hemophilia:

  •    Bleeding in the mouth from a cut/ bite or from losing a tooth
  •    Nosebleeds for no apparent reason
  •    Heavy bleeding from a minor cut
  •    Bleeding from a cut that resumes after stopping for a short time
  •    Blood in the urine (from bleeding in the kidneys or bladder)
  •    Blood in the stool (from bleeding in the intestines or stomach)
  •    Large bruises (from bleeding into the large muscles of the body)
  •   Bleeding in the knees, elbows, or other joints without obvious injury
  •    Repeated vomiting, double vision, seizures (from bleeding in the brain)

What can be done for hemophilia treatment?

Although there is no cure for hemophilia, people suffering from the disease can lead a fairly normal life with different types of treatments. In replacement therapy, concentrates of clotting factor depending on the type of hemophilia are slowly injected into a vein. Desmopressin can be injected or given as a nasal spray to stimulate the release of stored clotting factor. To keep blood clots from breaking down, antifibrinolytic medicines are given pills during the replacement therapy. To treat specific bleeding sites, pain medicines, steroids, and physical therapy may be advised.

What lifestyle measures can you take?

You can prevent excessive bleeding and protect your joints by following these measures:

  • Exercise regularly and properly: Swim, ride a bicycle and walk to build up muscles and protect joints. Avoid or be very careful while playing football, hockey or wrestling.
  • Avoid certain medications: Avoid pain medications which can aggravate bleeding and blood thinning medications which can prevent blood from clotting.
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Maintain dental hygiene to avoid tooth extraction process which can lead to excessive bleeding.
  • Protect your child from injuries: If your kid has hemophilia, make sure to protect him from injuries that can cause bleeding by using knee pads, elbow pads, safety belts and helmets.
  • Keep your home accident-free: Keep your home free of furniture with sharp corners and use safety glass for glazed doors and side panels.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Mar 15, 2016.
  2. National Institute of Health. Accessed Mar 16, 2015.
  3. World Federation of Hemophilia. Accessed Mar 16, 2015.