The facts about hemophilia, a bleeding disorder

It is never pleasant to bleed following an injury. Bleeding is often the trigger that makes children cry, but these incidents usually turn out to be benign and individuals can quickly return to their normal activities with their smile intact. This may sometimes not be the case with hemophilia.

A few words about hemophilia

Leo has cut his finger and a bright red drop of blood appears. This may seem ordinary, but for him, bleeding is not a short-lived incident.

Leo has hemophilia. Normally, clotting helps form a blood clot to avoid excessive bleeding when you cut yourself. However, for Leo, this process is defective‒his body is not as well-equipped to plug the small wounds we often get.

The clotting cascade occurs by the activation of several factors, called clotting factors, which ultimately form an effective clot. For hemophiliacs, one of these components is missing or is present, but in inadequate quantity. This hinders the clotting cascade, stopping it from reaching the end of the process, so the clot does not form as it should. Therefore, the blood remains thinner and the wound bleeds for a longer period of time.

There are two main types of hemophilia: A and B. One clotting factor or the other is defective depending on the type, but the result is the same. This disorder is not common, 1 out of 5000 newborn boys is affected by it. There are also other types that even more rare.

What role does genetics play in hemophilia?

Genetics is directly linked to hemophilia. The ability to complete the clotting process is in our genes and it’s our parents who pass on the undamaged genes or those that have undergone a genetic mutation.

This disorder is passed on to almost only males. However, females may be carriers without it ever manifesting itself. Therefore, mothers can pass it on to their sons. In very rare cases, and in specific situations, a female may be a hemophiliac.

It should be noted that in one third of cases where hemophilia is diagnosed, the genetic component is not found. This means that the defective gene muted during conception.

What are the risks associated with this disorder?

Because the blood of hemophiliacs is thinner, the disorder usually manifests itself by prolonged bleeding as well as other symptoms:

  • bruising;
  • bleeding in the joints;
  • pain, warm and red joints;
  • muscle pain;
  • bleeding in the mouth during dental surgery;
  • blood in the urine;
  • prolonged nose bleeds;
  • prolonged bleeding during surgery;
  • intracranial hemorrhage.

Bleeding caused by an accident can be dangerous for hemophiliacs, because they don’t have what is needed to stop the bleeding quickly. However, a minor cut is often without consequence aside from the fact that they will bleed longer than most. It is internal bleeding, such as bleeding in the joints, muscles or soft tissue that can have the most serious consequences. When bleeding occurs in a vital organ, such as the brain, this can be life-threatening.

The severity of the disorder varies according to the concentration in the blood of the defective coagulation factor. When the concentration is very low, the risk of bleeding is higher. When it is moderate, the disorder isn’t as serious.

How can I determine if my child is a hemophiliac?

When toddlers learn to walk, it is normal for them to have all sorts of small accidents, such as falls and collisions. If your toddler or an older child bruises easily when he falls or bumps into things, bleeds often (from the nose or when he bites his tongue or lip), he may suffer from hemophilia.

Don’t worry. As he gets older, your little intrepid explorer will learn to take the necessary precautions to avoid the risks of situations that could lead to bleeding. Consequently, this will reduce the impact that hemophilia might have on his life. However, he will always have to be conscious of this reality.

Can hemophilia be treated?

There is no cure for hemophilia. The first-line treatment consists of replacing the defective coagulation factor intravenously. This can be done in a preventive manner or when bleeding occurs. Various medications can be taken to prevent or stop minor bleeding. For more information on the treatment of hemophilia, talk to a health professional such as your doctor or pharmacist.

Practical tips

  • Avoid activities presenting a risk of injury.
  • Apply ice to all wounds immediately.
  • Inform others of the person’s health condition, including school or daycare staff. Inform them of the risks of bleeding and the measures that should be taken if this occurs.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
  • Avoid using drugs that can thin the blood, such as anti-inflammatories, without your doctor’s approval.
  • Avoid receiving intramuscular injections whenever possible.
  • Always wear a MedicAlert® bracelet. This will be very helpful for medical staff in the case of an accident.
  • Talk to a specialist from a clinic specialized in hemophilia or clotting disorders for additional tips or information.
  • See a doctor or go to emergency following any potentially serious injury.

Hemophilia requires great vigilance because it presents a serious risk of bleeding. Adding made-to-measure protection is sometimes necessary, but this shouldn’t stop hemophiliacs from living a normal life and doing the activities they enjoy.

If you have any questions about medication or health, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist.

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The facts about hemophilia, a bleeding disorder

It is never pleasant to bleed following an injury. Bleeding is often the trigger that makes children cry, but these incidents usually turn out to be benign and individuals can quickly return to their normal activities with their smile intact. This may sometimes not be the case with hemophilia.
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