Von Willebrand disease: Overview, Causes

Definition

Von Willebrand disease is the most common hereditary bleeding disorder.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Von Willebrand disease is caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand factor. Von Willebrand factor helps blood platelets clump together and stick to the blood vessel wall, which is necessary for normal blood clotting.

Von Willebrand disease affects both men and women. Most cases are mild. Bleeding may occur after surgery or when you have a tooth pulled. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can make this condition worse. Bleeding may decrease during pregnancy.

A family history of a bleeding disorder is the primary risk factor. In women with heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, von Willebrand is more common in Caucasian women than in African American women. The majority of women with heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding do NOT have Von Willebrand disease.

Pictures & Images

Blood clot formation

Blood clotting normally occurs when there is damage to a blood vessel. Platelets immediately begin to adhere to the cut edges of the vessel and release chemicals to attract even more platelets. A platelet plug is formed, and the external bleeding stops.

Next, small molecules, called clotting factors, cause strands of blood-borne materials, called fibrin, to stick together and seal the inside of the wound. Eventually, the cut blood vessel heals and the blood clot dissolves after a few days.

Blood clots

Blood clots

Blood clots (fibrin clots) are the clumps that result when blood coagulates.


Review Date : 3/21/2008
Reviewed By : Stephen Grund, M.D. Ph.D., Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the George Bray Cancer Center at New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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