AvWD is a rare type of bleeding disorder where blood does not clot correctly. It typically develops alongside other health conditions that affect the heart, immune system, or blood cells.

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) describes a type of blood disorder that slows the clotting process. This can lead to excess and spontaneous bleeding.

There are several types of vWD. The three main types of vWD are all hereditary. This means that a person is born with the condition and typically inherits it from their parents.

Acquired von Willebrand disease (AvWD) is another type of vWD. This type is much rarer and is not a condition that a person inherits. Instead, AvWD typically develops in association with other health conditions that affect the heart, blood cells, or immune system.

In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, treatment, and outlook of AvWD, and the difference between this condition and hereditary vWD.

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AvWD is a rare bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting correctly.

There are proteins in the blood known as von Willebrand factor proteins, which help the blood clotting process.

When a person has AvWD, they may not have enough von Willebrand factor in the blood or the proteins may not work correctly. This slows down the clotting process, resulting in blood clots not forming correctly. This can lead to sudden and prolonged bleeding.

There is currently no definitive cure for AvWD. However, it is not typically a life threatening condition. A doctor will typically focus on controlling and preventing bleeding and treating any underlying health conditions.

There are several types of vWD. All types of vWD occur when the body cannot produce enough von Willebrand factor, or what the body does produce is not effective. Von Willebrand factor is a type of protein in the blood that helps the blood to clot.

Therefore, when a person has vWD, the blood does not clot correctly, which can lead to spontaneous and excess bleeding.

The three most common types of vWD are hereditary. This means they run in families and a person is typically born with the condition. Hereditary vWD affects approximately 1 in 100 people in the United States.

AvWD is a much rarer form of vWD. AvWD does not run in families. It typically occurs later in life when a person has another underlying health condition that affects the immune system, blood cells, or heart.

A person with hereditary vWD may pass it on to their children. However, it is not possible for a person to pass AvWD to their children.

There are several symptoms of AvWD. They typically range from mild to moderate but can be more severe if a person sustains an injury or is undergoing surgery.

Symptoms of AvWD can include:

  • nosebleeds that occur frequently, spontaneously, or are difficult to stop
  • bruising frequently and easily, that may be large and have a lump
  • heavy menstrual periods that last for at least 7 days
  • bleeding that lasts longer than five minutes following a cut to the skin
  • heavy and prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery
  • heavy bleeding during childbirth or postpartum
  • heavy bleeding during or following dental work
  • blood in the urine or stools
  • bleeding into the skin and soft tissues

One of the most common risk factors for developing AvWD is if a person has an underlying condition that affects the blood, heart, or immune system.

Research suggests that approximately 30–40% of people with AvWD also have an immune system disorder.

A 2015 retrospective analysis suggests that there is approximately a 12–20% chance of people with AvWD also having blood cancer, such as essential thrombocythemia.

AvWD typically develops once a person reaches adulthood, therefore age may also be a risk factor.

To diagnose AvWD, a doctor may first perform a physical examination to check for bruising and any recent cuts. They may take a full family history to determine whether a person may have inherited vWD.

A doctor may then take blood samples to test how the blood clots. The tests can determine if von Willebrand factor proteins are present in the blood and if they are working correctly.

If a person is presenting symptoms of vWD, does not have any family history of the condition, and has an underlying condition that affects the immune system, heart, or blood, a doctor may diagnose AvWD.

Read on to learn more about blood tests for vWD.

There is currently no cure for AvWD. Therefore, a doctor will typically concentrate on controlling bleeding and treating the underlying conditions. Treating any underlying conditions may be the only way to cure AvWD.

Some treatments for AvWD include:

  • Hemostatic therapies: Medications that help the blood to clot and reduce bleeding.
  • Antifibrinolytic agents: Medications that stop the body from dissolving blood clots, therefore reducing bleeding.
  • Factor replacement therapy: Medications that contain von Willebrand factor proteins, or encourage the body to produce more of them, which can help the blood to clot correctly.
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): Medications that can help to treat autoimmune conditions and raise platelet levels in the blood.

AvWD typically presents mild to moderate symptoms. However, the symptoms may become severe, particularly if they arise following surgery.

The outlook for a person with AvWD may change depending on the severity of the associated underlying condition.

Research suggests that cancer is a common underlying cause of AvWD, and there may be a connection between vWD and the spreading of cancer to different areas of the body. Therefore, if a person with AvWD also has cancer and it spreads to other parts of the body, the outlook may change.

Acquired von Willebrand disease (AvWD) is a rare bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting correctly. This can lead to spontaneous and excessive bleeding.

The most common causes of AvWD are underlying conditions that affect the immune system, heart, and blood. A person cannot inherit AvWD.

There is currently no cure for AvWD. A doctor will typically focus on managing symptoms and treating any underlying conditions.