Did you know that duct tape and Elmer’s glue will fix just about anything? Sometimes things just need a little extra help sticking together. When that happens, the solution can’t be far away as long as you have a little Elmer’s glue around and a roll of that wonderful shiny tape. If only our health problems could be so easily solved!
The von Willebrand Factor (von Willebrand protein) is one of the tools that our body has at its’ disposal, the duct tape or glue if you will, that is required in order for our blood to clot normally. The platelets of persons with low levels of the von Willebrand Factor don’t clump together or bind properly to the walls of your blood vessels. Without this clumping and binding process, your blood will not clot properly and you’ll be subject to excessive or abnormal bleeding.
Persons with low or limited levels of the von Willebrand Factor, may have von Willebrand disease. Von Willebrand disease is a hereditary bleeding disorder. Unlike Hemophilia, which predominately affects only men, von Willebrand disease impacts both men and women. It is characterized by abnormal or excessive bruising, bleeding of gums, menstrual bleeding, skin rashes or nose bleeds. Persons with a family history of bleeding disorders are more at risk for von Willebrand disease than the general population. In addition, Caucasian women are more likely than African-American women to develop the disorder.
There are several different types of von Willebrand disease, including:
• Type I: Mildest and most common form. Von Willebrand is low and Factor VIII may also be low.
• Type II: Von Willebrand factor is abnormal. There are two subcategories of Type II.
• Type IIa: Von Willebrand factor is low. Platelets do not clump together properly.
• Type IIb: Increased platelet clumping.
• Type III: Most severe form. No von Willebrand Factor is present. Factor VIII is low (10% or less).
• Pseudo (or platelet-type) von Willebrand disease: Mimics Type IIb but the platelets are abnormal and not the von Willebrand factor.
Von Willebrand disease is treated with a medication such as desamino-8-arginine vasopressin (DDAVP), which is designed to increase the levels of the von Willebrand Factor in the blood thereby decreasing the risk of excessive or abnormal bleeding. Not all forms of von Willebrand disease respond to this treatment so it is important to know which type you have.
Because of their increased risk of bleeding, as a general rule, persons with von Willebrand disease should avoid common anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen unless directed to do so by their physician. In addition, persons with von Willebrand disease should take precautions before any surgical or dental procedure that might cause bleeding and make certain that their physician is aware of their condition. Your doctor may prescribe Alphanate (antihemophilic factor), other factor VIII solutions or plasma before a surgical procedure in order to decrease the risk of excessive bleeding or hemorrhaging during the procedure.
If you think that you might have von Willebrand disease, you should seek the assistance of a hematologist experienced in the diagnosis of this disorder.
Von Willebrand Disease, ADAM, Inc., 2009, https://health.google.com/health/ref/Von+Willebrand+disease
Von Willebrand Disease?, National Hemophilia Foundation, 2006 http://www.hemophilia.org/NHFWeb/MainPgs/MainNHF.aspx?menuid=182&contentid=47&rptname=bleeding
Von Willebrand Disease, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, May 2009, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/vWD/vWD_WhatIs.html