Everything You Need to Know About Hemophilia
For most people, getting a cut or a skinned knee is no big deal. But for some people, even a small injury that bleeds could become life-threatening. Hemophilia, a rare health condition, can cause a wound to turn into a crisis. If you have hemophilia, your blood can’t clot normally – and that means you could bleed for a long time, as your body is unable to stop the flow. Even more concerning, hemophilia can cause long-lasting internal bleeding that can lead to significant health concerns, or even death.
Although hemophilia is rare, it’s important to understand this health condition. It’s a disorder that can lead to severe health crises, and one that may not be immediately noticeable. If you’re aware of the facts about hemophilia, you’ll be better equipped to recognize the dangers of the disorder.
What Causes Hemophilia?
Hemophilia is a disorder that’s caused by a specific genetic mutation in the genes that instruct your body to form blood clots. When this gene mutation is present, your body can’t properly make the proteins that are required for clotting, or it may prevent those clotting proteins from working.
Because hemophilia is a genetic condition, it can run in families. However, you can also develop hemophilia without having any family history of the disorder – about one-third of hemophilia cases are diagnosed in babies who are the first in their families to carry the mutation.
When hemophilia is present, it can appear in different forms. In hemophilia A (also known as Classic Hemophilia), there’s a lack or decrease in what’s called clotting factor VIII. In hemophilia B (also known as Christmas Disease), there’s a lack or decrease in what’s called clotting factor IX. Your doctor will be able to determine the specific cause of your hemophilia when you get an official diagnosis and undergo the necessary testing.
Hemophilia Symptoms Can Vary
Hemophilia isn’t a health condition that produces noticeable symptoms or physical ailments. Its effects can happen within the body, deep inside where you can’t see what’s happening.
The clearest signs of hemophilia might not be something you can assess on your own. The most common symptoms include:
- Bleeding in the knees, elbows, ankles, or other joints.
- Bleeding into the skin, soft tissue, or muscles.
- Brain bleeding.
- Bleeding in the mouth and gums.
But there are some signs and symptoms that can be more visible. You might notice the following hemophilia symptoms happening:
- Unexplained, excessive bleeding after a cut or injury.
- Large or deep bruises.
- Unusual bleeding after receiving a vaccination.
- Unexplained, excessive bleeding after surgery or dental work.
- Pain, swelling, or tightness in the joints.
- Blood in urine or stool.
- Sudden nosebleeds with no known cause.
You might also experience some symptoms that can seem like other ailments or illnesses. When bleeding in the brain occurs as the result of hemophilia, you might have painful headaches, vomiting, double vision, or even seizures. You also might feel sleepy or lethargic.
If you’re experiencing any changes to your health that are worrisome or out of the norm, make an appointment with your doctor. You’ll want to discuss your concerns and have any necessary diagnostic tests done as soon as possible.
Hemophilia Can Be Diagnosed at Any Age
Hemophilia is a lifelong condition – but it can be diagnosed at any point in your life.
Severe hemophilia is often discovered and diagnosed in infants. But if you have a more mild case, hemophilia might not be found until adulthood. It can also be diagnosed after surgical procedures or other medical exams that show excessive or uncontrolled bleeding.
If you have a history of hemophilia in your family, you may be able to determine whether or not a child has the disorder during pregnancy. You should discuss your concerns and your risk factors with your doctor.
Hemophilia Can Be Treated
If you do become diagnosed with hemophilia, there are treatment options. This disorder can be treated – but the treatments available to you will depend on how severe your condition is and the type of hemophilia you have.
There are three common ways to treat hemophilia:
- Receive clotting factor replacement therapy.
- Take medication.
- Treat joint bleeding and other associated health problems.
How frequently you need treatments will also depend on your unique situation. More severe cases of hemophilia may require more regular treatments. Mild cases may only need treatment in certain situations. Your doctor can discuss the best course of treatment with you once you have an official diagnosis.
Additionally, you may require treatment for other health issues that are associated with hemophilia. This disorder can cause problems throughout the body, such as joint issues due to bleeding in the joints. You may need to monitor your physical activity, take preventative measures like icing joints, or try physical therapy to keep mobility and strength.
If you’re concerned about potentially developing hemophilia, talk with your doctor. Thanks to genetic testing, you and your doctor can assess your risk. And if you notice any signs or potential symptoms of hemophilia, make sure to see your doctor to get an official diagnosis.