Dear Addy: Do I Have a Bleeding Disorder?
I’m a woman who bruises easily and has a heavy menstrual cycle. Does this mean I have a bleeding disorder?
Possible Female Bleeder
Dear Possible Bleeder,
This is a great question and one that HFA is hearing more frequently from women. Bleeding disorders can be dangerous if they are not treated. Women with untreated bleeding disorders may face serious risks after childbirth, dental surgery, other surgery, or injury.
First, it is important to know the signs and symptoms that a woman with a bleeding disorder might experience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these signs and symptoms can include:
- Heavy menstrual periods, such as:
- Bleeding for more than 7 days from the time bleeding begins before it completely stops.
- Flooding or heavy bleeding that limits daily activities.
- Passing clots that are bigger than a quarter.
- Changing a tampon or pad, possibly even both, every hour or more often on heaviest day(s).
- Having low iron, which is also called anemia. (Your healthcare provider can test your iron level.)
- Experiencing prolonged bleeding episodes such as:
- After dental surgery, other surgery, or childbirth;
- Frequent nose bleeds (longer than 10 minutes);
- Bleeding from cuts or injury (longer than 5 minutes); or
- Easy bruising (raised and larger than a quarter in size).
- Having someone in your family with a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand disease or hemophilia.
If you have one or more of the signs and symptoms, please talk with your doctor or other health care professional who can refer you to a specialized healthcare provider called a hematologist. A hematologist can order specific blood tests to diagnose or rule out a bleeding disorder.
Many women do not know that they can get help for their bleeding disorder. Others do not get help because they are too embarrassed to talk with a doctor about their problem. Talking openly with your doctor is very important in making sure you are diagnosed properly and get the right treatment.
To help you understand and track your bleeding episodes, HFA has developed a mobile app for women, called Sisterhood. The Sisterhood app is free to download and available for both Apple and Android devices. By tracking your bleeding, you will be better prepared to discuss treatment options with your hematologist or preferred provider.
To support women with hemophilia, von Willebrand disease (vWD), and other bleeding disorders, HFA has developed the Blood Sisterhood program, a national women’s program that provides education and support to women with bleeding disorders. More information and the enrollment process can be found here.
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HFA frequently receives questions from the bleeding disorders community related to advocacy issues. The questions often impact the entire community. In an effort to reach the largest audience possible with our responses to these widely applicable questions, HFA developed “Dear Addy.” Questions submitted to this column are edited in order to protect privacy and should be considered educational only, not individual guidance.
Assisting and Advocating for the Bleeding Disorders Community