When most people get hurt, their body creates a blood clot at the site of the injury to stop the bleeding. In order for the blood to properly clot, the body must produce enough cells called platelets
, and proteins known as clotting factors
. However, for people with a bleeding disorder, they either have too few platelets or clotting factors, or
those cells don’t work properly, so when they bleed, a clot is not formed or forms too slowly, thus causing excessive bleeding, even death. This is a serious concern not only for injuries but also for people who need surgery or for women during childbirth.
There can be several causes…
von Willebrand disease
von Willebrand disease
is the most common bleeding disorder, affecting up to 1% of the U.S. population; it occurs equally in men and women. People with von Willebrand disease typically inherited it from their parents. It is caused by a missing or defective clotting protein called von Willebrand factor. Acquired von Willebrand disease
can occur in adults as a result of an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, or from heart disease and some types of cancer. It can also occur after taking some medications.
People with von Willebrand disease commonly have nosebleeds, bruise easily, and bleed excessively during and after surgery. Female patients often experience heavy menstrual periods that last longer than average, and excessive bleeding after childbirth.
People with hemophilia
do not bleed any faster
than other people, but they bleed for longer
because their blood lacks enough clotting factor. While it is one of the more common of the genetic bleeding disorders, it is still very rare: only about 1 in 10,000 people are born with it, and most are males. About one-third of people who have hemophilia do not carry the gene but rather develop it through a mutation of their own genes; this is called sporadic hemophilia
A person can, in rare cases, develop hemophilia later in life; this is called acquired hemophilia
. Most cases of acquired hemophilia are seen in middle-aged or elderly people, or women who have recently given birth or are in there final stages of pregnancy, but this condition typically improves with proper treatment.
Certain medications can also cause a patient to bleed more easily. “Blood thinners,” as they are often called, are sometimes prescribed to patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, or for people who are at a high risk for these conditions. Anticoagulants
, such as heparin or warfarin (also called Coumadin), cause a chemical reaction in the body which lengthens the time it takes to form a blood clot, whereas antiplatelet drugs
, such as aspirin, prevent platelets from clumping together to form a clot. The effects of both of these types of drugs are desirable if you want to prevent a dangerous clot from forming in the heart or brain, but can cause major bleeding issues if the patient is injured or requires surgery.
Partial Thromboplastin Time & Prothrombin Time tests
There are simple tests that can help your doctor determine if you have a genetic or acquired bleeding disorder. If you are having surgery or are pregnant, your doctor may want to conduct these tests to see if there is a risk of complications from excessive bleeding during or after surgery or childbirth, either because you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood-thinning medication.
The Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT) test
measures how well your blood clots; it is also referred to as the Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time (aPTT) test
. This test uses a sample of your blood to examine whether you have enough of the blood-clotting factors VIII, IX, XI, and XII.
The Prothrombin Time (PT) test
is a similar test that finds clotting problems for factors I, II, V, VII, and X.
If you need a PTT or PT tests, order your own lab tests on line at a discount: www.HealthOneLabs.com