Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions in which there is a problem with the body's blood clotting process. These disorders can lead to heavy and prolonged bleeding after an injury. Bleeding can also begin on its own.
Normal blood clotting involves blood components, called platelets, and as many as 20 different plasma proteins. These are known as blood clotting or coagulation factors. These factors interact with other chemicals to form a substance that stops bleeding called fibrin.
Problems can occur when certain factors are low or missing. Bleeding problems can range from mild to severe.
Some bleeding disorders are present at birth and are passed down through families (inherited). Others develop from:
Illnesses, such as vitamin K deficiency or severe liver disease
Treatments, such as the use of drugs to stop blood clots (anticoagulants) or the long-term use of antibiotics
Bleeding disorders can also result from a problem with the number or function of the blood cells that promote blood clotting (platelets). These disorders can also be either inherited or develop later (acquired). The side effects of certain drugs often lead to the acquired forms.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Bleeding into joints or muscles
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Nosebleeds that do not stop easily
Excessive bleeding with surgical procedures
Umbilical cord bleeding after birth
The problems that occur depend on the specific bleeding disorder, and how severe it is.
Outcome also depends on the disorder. Most primary bleeding disorders can be managed. When the disorder is due to diseases, such as DIC, the outcome will depend on how well the underlying disease can be treated.
Complications may include:
Bleeding in the brain
Severe bleeding (usually from the gastrointestinal tract or injuries)
Other complications can occur, depending on the disorder.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you notice any unusual or severe bleeding.
Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.