What is a bleeding disorder?
A bleeding disorder is a condition that affects the way your blood normally clots.
The clotting process, also known as coagulation, changes blood from a liquid to a solid.
When you’re injured, your blood normally begins to clot to prevent a massive loss of blood. Certain conditions prevent blood from clotting properly, which can result in heavy or prolonged bleeding.
Bleeding disorders can cause abnormal bleeding both under the skin or in vital organs, such as the joints, gastro-intestinal tract or brain.
What causes a bleeding disorder?
Bleeding disorders often develop when the blood can’t clot properly.
For blood to clot, your body needs blood proteins called clotting factors and blood cells called platelets.
In people with bleeding disorders, the clotting factors or platelets don’t work the way they should or are in short supply.
This can lead to excessive or prolonged bleeding.
Bleeding disorders can be inherited, which means they’re passed from a parent to their child.
However, some disorders may develop as a result of other medical conditions, such as liver disease.
Bleeding disorders may also be caused by:
Types of bleeding disorders
There are numerous different bleeding disorders, but the following are the most common ones:
- Haemophilia A and B are conditions that occur when there are low levels of clotting factors in your blood. It causes heavy or unusual bleeding into the joints. Though hemophilia is rare, it can have life-threatening complications.
- Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder. It develops when the blood lacks von Willebrand factor, which helps the blood to clot.
- Thrombocytopaenia – low platelets
Platelets are tiny components of the blood which help blood to clot when we injure ourselves. They are also known as thrombocytes. They are made inside bone, in the bone marrow. They are released into the bloodstream and travel through the body for about seven days, before they are removed by the spleen. The spleen is an organ that lies at the top of the tummy (abdomen) under the ribs on the left-hand side.
A normal number of platelets is between 150 and 400 x 109 per litre. This is found by a blood test.
If you have too many platelets, your blood will clot too easily. If you do not have enough platelets, you may bruise and bleed more easily than usual.
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