Problems with easy bleeding, bruising, or swollen joints?

It may surprise you, but any of these can result from a bleeding disorder. You might bleed or bruise easily or have trouble getting bleeding to stop. Or you may have swelling or pain in your joints for no apparent reason.

If you think you have a bleeding disorder, learn more by reading this page. Then talk with your doctor about your symptoms and getting tested. Diagnosis and treatment may help.

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Bleeding disorder symptoms sometimes can be confusing or hard to understand. Watch this video to learn more.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bleeding Disorders?

There are many possible symptoms of bleeding disorders. Some are easy to understand because they happen outside the body, like bleeding too long from a cut in the skin. But bleeding that happens inside the body (like in a joint) may be harder to recognize as being caused by a bleeding disorder. Also, symptoms can range from mild (not too much worse than normal) to severe (much worse than normal).

Symptoms of a bleeding disorder may include—

Woman icon

Symptoms in women:

  • Heavier or longer bleeding during periods than most other women (heavy menstrual bleeding)
  • Bleeding complications during pregnancy or childbirth
Newborn baby icon

Symptoms in newborns: Umbilical cord (belly button) or circumcision bleeding that does not stop normally, or brain or stomach bleeding

Symptoms in anyone:

  • Bruising on skin illustration icon
    Easy bruising
  • Nose bleed illustration icon
    Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding in joints illustration icon
    Joint swelling/pain
  • Bleeding gums illustration icon
    Gum bleeding
  • Excessive bleeding from injury illustration icon
    Excessive bleeding after injury
  • Internal bleeding in brain illustration icon
    Bleeding in the brain

Did You Know?

  • Some bleeding disorders are caused by factor deficiencies. That means there is not enough of one or more of the clotting factors in the blood.
  • There are many different clotting factors and each has its own number. The number is usually written using Roman numerals, like factor II (two), factor V (five), or factor X (ten).
Ask your doctor about testing for bleeding disorders if you have these symptoms.

What Are Bleeding Disorders?

Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions where people may bleed a lot, bleed easily, or have a hard time getting bleeding to stop. Bleeding can happen inside or outside the body.

Graphic of normal blood clotting of blood cells

How does the body normally stop bleeding?

The body forms a clot (plug) to stop the blood from flowing. Blood clots are formed using tiny cells known as platelets and proteins called clotting factors.

Graphic depicting continuous bleeding when there's not enough clotting factor

What happens in people with bleeding disorders?

The blood may not have enough clotting factors, or they may not be working the way they should. These problems can keep a clot from forming, so bleeding continues.

If bleeding happens inside the body, symptoms may be harder to notice.
For example, bleeding in joints may show as joint swelling or pain.

How Common Are Bleeding Disorders?

Bleeding disorders can affect anyone. There are many types of bleeding disorders, and some of them are hereditary (run in families).

  • The most common bleeding disorders are von Willebrand disease and hemophilia.
    • von Willebrand disease affects up to about 1 in 100 people in the US.1
    • Hemophilia affects about 1 of every 5000 males at birth.2
  • Other bleeding disorders are less common. They are known as rare bleeding disorders.
    • If von Willebrand and hemophilia are not the cause of bleeding, tests for rare bleeding disorders may help to find the cause of bleeding and the right treatment.

How Do I Know If I Have a Bleeding Disorder?

If you think you have a bleeding disorder, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms, medical history, and family history of bleeding problems. You can ask your doctor about blood tests to check for bleeding disorders and treatment to help you manage bleeding.

Help your doctor help you.

  1. Answer a few symptom questions and save, print, or email your answers.
  2. Show the questions and answers to your doctor.
  3. Ask your doctor about getting tested for a bleeding disorder.
Early diagnosis of bleeding disorders is important. Bleeding disorders can cause serious or life-threatening problems, such as stroke or miscarriage. Work with your doctor so you can be tested to understand the cause of your bleeding.

How Are Bleeding Disorders Treated?

Bleeding disorders cannot usually be cured. But many bleeding disorders can be treated. Treatment depends on the bleeding disorder. It may include medicines that replace clotting factors that are missing in the blood.

The type of treatment needed depends on how often you have symptoms and how severe they are.

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Routine treatment:

  • Some bleeding disorders can be treated with routine treatment. This means you take a medicine, as directed by your doctor, to help prevent bleeding before it happens.
  • This may be the right choice if your symptoms are regular, affect your daily activities, cause pain, or if you have very severe (bad) bleeds.
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Treatment with surgery:

  • In some cases, treatment may be given to help prevent bleeding with surgeries. This includes dental surgery or other procedures where bleeding is possible.
  • This may be the right choice if you might bleed more because of surgery. It may be chosen even if you don’t have a lot of bleeding symptoms, because you might bleed more with surgery.
Blood droplet and hand icon

Treatment as needed (on-demand):

  • Sometimes treatment is given each time you bleed. As-needed treatment can help to stop a bleed after it starts.
  • This may be the right choice if you bleed very rarely, if bleeding does not usually affect your daily activity, or if your bleeding is not severe.

References: 1. Centers for Disease Control. What is von Willebrand disease? https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/vwd/facts.html. Reviewed October 28, 2019. Accessed October 22, 2020. 2. Centers for Disease Control. What is hemophilia? https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hemophilia/facts.html. Reviewed July 17, 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.