von Willebrand Disease

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A blood disorder, von Willebrand disease (vWD) is inherited from your parents. You inherit mutated genes that damage a protein in your blood. This protein helps clot blood when you get injured. Without enough of this protein, or if it's not working well, you have bleeding problems. Your blood doesn't clot, and the bleeding doesn't stop.

Treating von Willebrand Disease at UVA Health

At UVA Health, we're experts in treating all kinds of blood disorders. You'll find a team dedicated to helping you manage your condition.

Many people with this disease don't need treatment. You might not even have symptoms. But if you do need care, we have a full range of options. We can make sure you get the medicine you need to live a full life.

3 Types of vWD

Genetic defects cause vWD. You inherit these genes from one or both parents. The type of gene you inherit causes different types of damage to the protein in your blood.

Types include:

  • Type 1— low levels of vWD protein, inherited from one parent; mild and most common form
  • Type 2— you have vWD protein that doesn't work well; inherited from one parent
  • Type 3— you have no vWD protein; both parents have the gene; most rare and serious form

Sometimes, vWD can develop from other medical conditions or medications. Then we call the condition acquired von Willebrand syndrome.

von Willebrand Disease Treatment Options

We have options to help your blood clot. This controls bleeding. The kind of treatment you'll need depends on the type of disease you have. Treatment may include:

  • Nasal spray or injection 
  • IV infusion of von Willebrand protein 
  • Birth control pills (for heavy menstrual periods)
  • Medicine for bleeding in your nose or mouth
  • A special protein or blood factor that calms an immune response to vWD

Signs of Disease

Many people with the vWD gene have mild symptoms. Some have none at all.

Symptoms usually begin in childhood. An injury or medical procedure that causes bleeding might be the first sign of an issue.

They waver throughout life. The impact varies from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Lots of nosebleeds
  • Prolonged bleeding from the gums and minor cuts
  • Heavy or prolonged bleeding during menstrual periods
  • Bloody urine
  • Prolonged bleeding after injury, childbirth, surgery
  • Bleeding without clear cause
  • Joint pain and swelling, from bleeding

To see if your symptoms result from this disease, we'll need to run blood tests. We'll look at your ability to form blood clots.