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Bleeding disorders

Definition

Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions in which there is a problem with the body's blood clotting process. These disorders can lead to heavy and prolonged bleeding after an injury. Bleeding can also begin on its own.

Related problems include:

Alternative Names

Coagulopathy

Causes


Blood clotting

Watch this video about:
Blood clotting

Normal blood clotting involves as many as 20 different plasma proteins. These are known as blood clotting or coagulation factors. These factors interact with other chemicals to form a substance called fibrin that stops bleeding.

Problems can occur when certain coagulation factors are low or missing. Bleeding problems can range from mild to severe.

Some bleeding disorders are present at birth and are passed through families (inherited). Others develop from:

  • Illnesses such as vitamin K deficiency or severe liver disease
  • Treatments such as the use of drugs to stop blood clots (anticoagulants) or the long-term use of antibiotics

Bleeding disorders can also result from a problem with the number or function of the blood cells that promote blood clotting (platelets). These disorders can also be either inherited or develop later (acquired). The side effects of certain drugs often lead to the acquired forms.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of disorder. It may include:

  • Factor replacement
  • Fresh frozen plasma transfusion
  • Platelet transfusion
  • Other therapies

Outlook (Prognosis)

Possible Complications

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Severe bleeding (usually from the gastrointestinal tract or injuries)

Other complications can occur, depending on the disorder.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you notice any unusual or severe bleeding.

Prevention

Prevention depends on the specific disorder.

References

Ragni MV. Hemorrhagic disorders: Coagulation factor deficiencies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 177.

Gailani D, Neff AT. Rare coagulation deficiencies. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 139.


Review Date: 3/3/2013
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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