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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of von Willebrand Disease?

The signs and symptoms of von Willebrand disease (VWD) depend on which type of the disorder you have. They also depend on how serious the disorder is. Many people have such mild symptoms that they don't know they have VWD.

If you have type 1 or type 2 VWD, you may have the following mild-to-moderate bleeding symptoms:

  • Frequent, large bruises from minor bumps or injuries
  • Frequent or hard-to-stop nosebleeds
  • Prolonged bleeding from the gums after a dental procedure
  • Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding in women
  • Blood in your stools from bleeding in your intestines or stomach
  • Blood in your urine from bleeding in your kidneys or bladder
  • Heavy bleeding after a cut or other accident
  • Heavy bleeding after surgery

People who have type 3 VWD may have all of the symptoms listed above and severe bleeding episodes for no reason. These bleeding episodes can be fatal if not treated right away. People who have type 3 VWD also may have bleeding into soft tissues or joints, causing severe pain and swelling.

Heavy menstrual bleeding often is the main symptom of VWD in women. Doctors call this menorrhagia (men-o-RA-je-ah). They define it as:

  • Bleeding with clots larger than about 1-inch in diameter
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count) or low blood iron
  • The need to change pads or tampons more than every hour

However, just because a woman has heavy menstrual bleeding doesn't mean she has VWD.

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June 1, 2011