Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder caused by low levels of a protein called von Willebrand factor, which helps blood to clot by acting as glue for platelets. It is often compared to hemophilia, but is a different disease and usually milder than hemophilia. It is the most common inherited bleeding disorder in the United States. There are three main types of vWD:
Children and young adults with vWD are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Hemophilia Program. Continue reading to learn more about von Willebrand disease or visit the Hemophilia Program homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.
Many children with mild cases of vWD have no visible symptoms. Others can experience symptoms such as:
If a doctor suspects a child of having vWD, he will ask about any family history of bleeding or bleeding disorders. In addition to a physical exam to check for signs of bleeding, liver disease or anemia, tests to measure the level of von Willebrand factor in the blood, as well as the amount of other important factors, and how well the body’s clotting mechanisms are working, may be done. These include:
A doctor may order these tests more than once to confirm the diagnosis. After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
Treatment of vWD varies, depending on the type and severity of the disease. If a child has mild vWD with no noticeable symptoms, treatment may only be needed for surgery, tooth extraction or trauma. The most common treatments used for vWD include: