Bleeding Disorders
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Bleeding Disorders

Bleeding Disorders Causes and Risk Factors

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What causes bleeding disorders?

Your genes, or other causes such as medical conditions or medicines, can cause bleeding disorders. Sometimes a cause may not be known. Any problem that affects the function or number of clotting factors or platelets can lead to a bleeding disorder.

When trying to diagnose a bleeding disorder, your doctor will consider different factors, such as symptoms, risk factors, medical and family history, and various tests. Once the type of bleeding disorder is identified, your medical team will develop a treatment plan.

Genetics

Bleeding disorders can be caused by genes that are passed down from your parents. Your genes provide instructions for how each clotting factor is made. If there is a mutation in the gene, then the clotting factor may be made incorrectly or not at all.

Inheritance pattern for hemophilia in which the mother is a carrier
Inheritance pattern for hemophilia in which the mother is a carrier. In this example, the father does not have hemophilia. He has two normal chromosomes, X and Y. The mother is a carrier of hemophilia, because she has one hemophilia gene on one X chromosome and one normal X chromosome. Each daughter has a 50% chance of inheriting the hemophilia gene from her mother and being a carrier. Each son has a 50% chance of having hemophilia. 

 

Inheritance pattern for hemophilia in which the father has hemophilia
Inheritance pattern for hemophilia in which the father has hemophilia. In this example, the mother is not a hemophilia carrier and has two normal X chromosomes. None of the children will have hemophilia. Each daughter will inherit the hemophilia gene from her father and be a carrier.

Other causes

Medical conditions, procedures, or medicines can cause bleeding disorders. Some medical conditions and medicines that lead to bleeding disorders cause your body to produce proteins, called antibodies or inhibitors, that can attack clotting factors.

Other medical conditions may cause your body to stop making clotting factors or to make too little of them. Certain medical devices or procedures can also affect clotting factors, as the pumping of blood through the area can affect the amounts of clotting factors.

What raises the risk of bleeding disorders?

You may have an increased risk for bleeding disorders because of your age, family history and genetic, other medical conditions and medicines, and your sex.

Age

Bleeding disorders can happen at any age. However, newborns are more likely than adults to develop vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Acquired hemophilia A is more common among older people.

Family history and genetics

Bleeding disorders may run in families. You are at an increased risk of having a bleeding disorder if one or both of your parents have the disease.

Other medical conditions

Certain diseases or medical conditions can increase your risk for an acquired bleeding disorders, such as:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Bowel diseases or bowel surgery
  • Cancer
  • Congenital or acquired heart diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Immune disorders, including Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Infections
  • Liver disease
  • Lymphoproliferative disorders, such as certain types of leukemia
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum bleeding, which can use up the body’s clotting factors too quickly
  • Skin conditions
  • Trauma, or severe injury, to the brain or body

Certain treatments for medical conditions can also increase risk, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood thinner medicines, also called anticoagulants, that are used to help prevent blood clots from forming inside the blood vessels
  • Devices that increase blood flow, such as ventricular assist devices
  • Interferon alpha, a medicine to treat certain types of cancer
  • Surgeries, such as heart surgeries that use a heart-lung bypass machine, that can lead to acquired von Willebrand disease

Sex

Hemophilia is much more common in men than in women. However, women are at increased risk of bleeding disorders, such as acquired hemophilia, during and after pregnancy.

Can you prevent bleeding disorders?

Inherited bleeding disorders, such as inherited or acquired hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, cannot be prevented. Couples who are planning to have children and know that they are at risk of having a child with a bleeding disorder may want to meet with a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor can answer questions about the risk.

Newborns are at an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding. To prevent a bleeding disorder caused by vitamin K deficiency, your baby will most likely get a vitamin K shot right after birth.

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