What is hemophilia?

Hemophilia is a bleeding disorder. It is a rare condition that does not allow your blood to clot normally. Hemophilia may be mild, moderate, or severe.

What is the cause?

Hemophilia is usually inherited, which means that it is passed from parents to children through their genes. Genes are inside each cell of your body. They contain the information that tells your body how to develop and work.

There are several proteins in your blood called clotting factors that cause your blood to clot after an injury. When you have hemophilia, your body is missing one of the blood-clotting factors or has very little of a blood-clotting factor.

  • Hemophilia A is the most common form. It happens when clotting factor 8 is low or missing.
  • Hemophilia B, also called Christmas disease, is the second most common form of hemophilia. It happens when factor 9 is low or missing.

Hemophilia is much more common in males than females. The disease can be passed to children by mothers who do not have symptoms. A man with the disease can pass the genes to his daughters, but not his sons. All of his daughters will be carriers of the hemophilia gene and may pass it on to their children.

In rare cases, hemophilia can be caused by a disease such as diabetes, cancer, liver infections, blood diseases, or an autoimmune disease (a disease that causes your body to mistakenly attack your own tissue).

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is bleeding that lasts longer than normal after injuries or surgery. You may also have internal bleeding, especially into the joints (knees, ankles, and elbows). Examples of abnormal bleeding are:

  • A lot of bleeding or bruising after minor injuries
  • Easy bleeding, such as nosebleeds
  • Bleeding in the mouth from a cut or bite or from losing a tooth

How is it diagnosed?

Most people with hemophilia are diagnosed in the first 2 years of life. The diagnosis is based on family history, unusual bleeding, and blood tests. In some cases, especially if the symptoms are mild, the diagnosis may not be made until a child is several years old.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for hemophilia but there are treatments. Treatments depends on the type of hemophilia and whether you have mild, moderate, or severe hemophilia. Treatments may include:

  • Treating minor cuts with a bandage and pressure on the wound. If the bleeding does not stop, you will need to get instructions from your provider or go to the emergency room.
  • Medicine that helps your body make the missing blood-clotting factor
  • Pain medicine for painful joints
  • A man-made product or a product made from donated blood to replace the missing blood-clotting factor

If you have lost a lot of blood, you may need a blood transfusion.

Hemophilia treatment centers are located in many areas of the US. These centers provide treatment, education, and support to people who have hemophilia and to their families.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Exercise regularly, for example biking, swimming, and walking. This will keep your muscles strong and protect your joints from injury. Avoid contact sports, such as football or soccer, and other activities that are more likely to cause internal bleeding.
  • Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. These medicines can increase your risk for bleeding. Use acetaminophen when you need to take medicine for pain. Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Read the label carefully and take as directed. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours or take it for longer than 10 days. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily. There may be some bleeding at first, but as your gums get healthier, the bleeding should stop. Let your dentist know that you have hemophilia. Notify your healthcare provider or hemophilia treatment center before any dental procedure. You may need treatment before the procedure to prevent bleeding.
  • Make sure your friends, family, and coworkers know that you have hemophilia.
  • You should carry an ID card or wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that says you have hemophilia. If you need emergency care, surgery, or lab tests, this helps the healthcare provider know how to treat you.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-10-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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