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    Von Willebrand disease

    Von Willebrand disease is the most common hereditary bleeding disorder.


    Von Willebrand disease is caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand factor. Von Willebrand factor helps blood platelets clump together and stick to the blood vessel wall, which is necessary for normal blood clotting. There are several types of Von Willebrand disease.

    A family history of a bleeding disorder is the primary risk factor.


    • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
    • Bleeding of the gums
    • Bruising
    • Nosebleeds
    • Skin rash

    Note: Most women with heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding do not have Von Willebrand disease.

    Exams and Tests

    Von Willebrand disease may be hard to diagnose. Low von Willebrand factor levels and bleeding do not always mean you have von Willebrand disease.

    Tests that may be done to diagnose this disease include:

    • Bleeding time
    • Blood typing
    • Factor VIII level
    • Platelet aggregation test
    • Platelet count
    • Ristocetin cofactor test
    • Von Willebrand factor specific tests


    Treatment may includeDDAVP (desamino-8-arginine vasopressin), a medicinetoraise von Willebrand factor level and reduce the chances for bleeding.

    However, DDAVP does not work for all types of von Willebrand disease. Tests should be done to determine what type of von Willebrand you have. If you are going to have surgery, your doctor may give youDDAVP before surgery to see if yourvon Willebrand factor levels increase.

    The drug Alphanate (antihemophilic factor) is approved to decrease bleeding in patients with the disease who must have surgery or any other invasive procedure.

    Blood plasma or certain factor VIII preparations may also be used to decrease bleeding.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Bleeding may decrease during pregnancy. Women who have this conditionusually do nothave excessive bleeding during childbirth.

    This disease is passed down through families. Genetic counseling may help prospective parents understand the risk to their children.

    Possible Complications

    Bleeding may occur after surgery or when you have a tooth pulled.

    Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can make this condition worse. Do not take these medicines without first talking to your doctor or nurse.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if bleeding occurs without reason.

    If you have von Willebrand disease andare scheduled for surgery or are in an accident, be sure you or your family notify the health care providers about your condition.


    Kessler CM. Hemorrhagic disorders: coagulation factor deficiencies. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 180.


    • Blood clot formation


    • Blood clots


      • Blood clot formation


      • Blood clots


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Von Willebrand disease

              Review Date: 2/16/2012

              Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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