What You Need to Know About Hemophilia & Why Bruising Easily Could Be a Red Flag

A guide to learning about hemophilia.

By Michael Bohl
blood test

Have you ever had a nosebleed that just wouldn’t stop? Or a cut that needed one more bandage to heal? While odds are those things were not cause for concern, in some cases, not being able to stop bleeding can signify a more serious health issue. Bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, are generally very rare, but they can happen. Find out what you need to know about hemophilia right here. 

Hemophilia is a type of bleeding disorder that occurs when blood doesn't clot properly. Clotting is necessary to control the amount of blood loss after a wound. When you have hemophilia, clotting is disrupted, which can lead to spontaneous bleeding or excessive bleeding after surgery or other injuries. Surgery can already be intimidating enough, but when you add the factor of bleeding too much and not healing properly, anxieties can go through the roof. According to the Mayo Clinic, this bleeding disorder is rare and therefore not generally a cause for worry. However, if you have a family history of hemophilia or find that you have unusual bleeding symptoms you might want to talk to your doctor and get checked.

What is the difference between hemophilia A and hemophilia B?

Normal blood clotting is mediated by several small proteins known as clotting factors. People with hemophilia have low levels of some of these factors. If you have hemophilia A, you are deficient in clotting factor VIII. Hemophilia A is sometimes called Classic Hemophilia. If you have hemophilia B, you are deficient in clotting factor IX. Hemophilia B is sometimes called Christmas Disease. A less common and more mild form of hemophilia is hemophilia C, where the body is deficient in clotting factor XI. Hemophilia C predominantly occurs in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

How do you get hemophilia?

Hemophilia is a genetic disease, meaning it is inherited. The gene for hemophilia is carried on the X chromosome. Males have one X chromosome while females have two X chromosomes. Hemophilia mostly affects men. 

Although less likely, it is also possible to develop hemophilia from a random genetic mutation, which cannot be predicted.

How common is hemophilia?

Approximately 1 in 5,000 males are born with hemophilia. Hemophilia A is more prevalent than hemophilia B.

What are the symptoms of hemophilia?

The most common symptom of hemophilia is bleeding, which can happen spontaneously or after injury. This includes:

  • Bleeding in the joints (knees, elbows, ankles, etc.) which can cause swelling and pain
  • Bleeding in the skin, causing large bruising
  • Bruising easily or more frequently, due to lack of clotting proteins
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Bleeding after any sort of procedure, such as an incision or vaccination
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Nosebleeds that are difficult to stop
  • Bleeding into the brain after an injury, which is rare but can be serious

How is hemophilia diagnosed?

Hemophilia is diagnosed by blood tests. A doctor may check for hemophilia if a patient has a known family history of hemophilia or if the patient has unusual bleeding episodes suspicious for the disease.

How is hemophilia treated?

Treatment for hemophilia includes replacing the missing clotting factors. This is done by injecting concentrations of the clotting factors into the veins. People with hemophilia need treatment delivered on a schedule and must stay regularly connected to the healthcare system. Various other treatments also exist that are geared towards stimulating the body to create more clotting factors, promoting clotting, and decreasing clot breakdown.

What are the complications of living with hemophilia?

The prognosis for those living with hemophilia depends on the severity of the disease (which is related to how much clotting factor is present). With treatment, people with hemophilia can lead active lives. However, life-threatening risks include bleeding inside the skull.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Brought to You By Genentech

See Dr. Oz in CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, a comedy/reality series inspired by the hemophilia A community. Check out his episode below, and click here to watch the whole season.

Related:

The Questions Dr. Oz Wants You to Ask Your Doctor

6 Genetic Health Conditions You May Not Know You Have

What You Need to Know About Sickle Cell Anemia

Article written by Michael Bohl