Hemophilia and von Willebrand disease (VWD) are bleeding disorders that share similar symptoms. Both conditions make it more difficult for the blood to clot.
Both conditions can also be genetic, meaning a person inherits them from their biological parents. However, people can develop these disorders due to other factors, too. There are also differences in their symptoms and management.
Keep reading to learn about the differences and similarities between VWD and hemophilia, how doctors can tell them apart, and the treatment options.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Hemophilia and VWD are bleeding disorders that people
This can be a problem if a person gets a cut or injury and the wound cannot stop bleeding or if a person needs a medical procedure, such as surgery. People who menstruate may also experience heavy periods.
Learn more about blood disorders.
The symptoms of hemophilia and VWD can be very similar, and may include:
- bruising easily
- large bruises
- recurring or severe nosebleeds
- excessive bleeding after a trauma or injury
- heavy bleeding after dental procedures, vaccinations, or minor surgery
- slower healing after surgery
- heavy menstruation
People with hemophilia
To diagnose whether an individual has hemophilia or VWD, doctors need to perform a combination of tests and ask about the medical history of the person’s family.
- blood tests
- screening tests to check if the blood is clotting properly
- clotting factor tests to determine what type of bleeding disorder a person has
Doctors may also diagnose a condition based on a person’s symptoms. For example, if an individual is experiencing pain or stiffness in their joints, this
Hemophilia and VWD are both genetic conditions but are related to different chromosomes.
Chromosomes are DNA molecules that house genes, which control how bodies grow and develop. In humans, one pair of chromosomes influences their sex. Females have two X chromosomes, whereas males have an X and Y chromosome.
Hemophilia usually occurs due to a difference in genes on the X chromosome.
Because females have two X chromosomes, the genes for hemophilia are less likely to affect them, as they have a higher chance of having at least one typical X chromosome.
If a female parent
This means that male parents cannot pass hemophilia down to their male children, as they will pass on their Y chromosome. Their female children will have a 50% chance of becoming carriers.
In contrast, females and males
This is because VWD does not have links to the X chromosome. Any parent can pass it down to their children, regardless of sex.
A person may also develop this disorder even if their parents do not have VWD. This is because either parent may carry a gene for VWD without having symptoms.
In some rare cases, people
This can help prevent or stop bleeding. Doctors may also prescribe medications that people with this condition have to take regularly to manage the disorder.
The treatment for VWD can vary
Doctors may also recommend using a specific nasal spray called desmopressin acetate to help the body release more VWF and taking antifibrinolytic drugs, which prevent the breakdown of blood clots.
Here are answers to some common questions about VWD and hemophilia.
Is VWD a type of hemophilia?
No, VWD is not a type of hemophilia. Both conditions are bleeding disorders, but they are not the same illness.
Can you have both VWD and hemophilia?
As the conditions occur due to inherited changes in different genes, people can inherit the genes for both VWD and hemophilia.
Do females with hemophilia menstruate?
That said, it is important to note that most females who carry a hemophilia gene do not have hemophilia. They only carry a copy of the gene. This sometimes results in symptoms, but these may be less severe.
Von Willebrand disease (VWD) and hemophilia are bleeding disorders that can cause similar symptoms, including excessive bleeding from cuts and wounds, recurring nosebleeds, easy bruising, heavy periods in females, and slow healing after surgery.
Both conditions are usually the result of genetics. Hemophilia is more prevalent in males, while people of all sexes have the same chance of developing VWD.
The treatments for each condition are different, so getting the correct diagnosis is important. People who have concerns that they may have a bleeding disorder should speak with a healthcare professional.