Hemophilia is the most common inherited bleeding disorder. People with hemophilia have low levels of one of two blood-clotting substances, known as factor VIII and factor IX. As a result, their blood does not clot properly and they may bleed for a long time after an injury. They may also experience internal bleeding, especially in the joints. There are two types of hemophilia -- type A and type B.
People with hemophilia may have the following signs and symptoms:
In most cases, hemophilia is inherited. Having a family history of hemophilia increases the risk for hemophilia. The daughters of men with hemophilia will be carriers. However, only about half of the sons of women carriers will have hemophilia. This happens because the genes responsible for hemophilia are on the X chromosome.
Health care providers usually detect hemophilia before birth through a blood test. After birth, the first sign of hemophilia is often deep and easy bruising as an infant is learning to crawl. For male children, heavy bleeding after circumcision may be the first sign of the condition. In many cases, hemophilia is not detected until adulthood, during trauma like a tooth extraction or following surgery.
During a physical examination, your provider will take into account the following:
Hemophilia cannot be cured however, some complications can be minimized. Patients who take preventative measures early start(by age 3) show a better muscuoloskeletal outcome and fewer joint bleeds. People with hemophilia should take the following precautions:
A provider may prescribe the following medications:
Certain types of surgery may become necessary, including:
Hemophilia requires conventional medications. When you are bleeding or have joint pain or swelling, get medical help immediately. Some CAM therapies may be helpful when used together with conventional care for certain symptoms. For example, some mind-body therapies may help reduce stress and anxiety.
No studies have examined the link between nutrition and hemophilia. You should avoid vitamin E and fish oil supplements if you have hemophilia, as they seem to increase bleeding time by keeping platelets from clumping. Vitamin K plays a role in normal clotting and may be useful either from dietary sources or in supplement form. More research is needed. Do not take vitamin K supplements without first talking to your doctor.
You should never use herbal therapies without your doctor's supervision. In addition, people with hemophilia should avoid the following herbs, which might make bleeding more severe:
Since herbs can affect clotting in one way or another, people with hemophilia should take herbs only under a doctor's supervision.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies for hemophilia. There is no evidence that homeopathy is effective for the treatment of hemophilia, its symptoms, or complications. Some people with hemophilia consider adding one of the following homeopathic remedies to their treatment regimen:
Acupuncture is not recommended for people with hemophilia because of the risk of bleeding.
Regular exercise can build strong muscles and help prevent joint problems. People with hemophilia can exercise safely, although they should avoid contact sports. Physical therapy may also play an important role in reducing joint problems caused by repeated bleeding in those areas. Your physical therapist may recommend the following exercises:
Work with your provider to develop a program that is best for you. You should use the routine for at least 6 to 9 months to treat chronic joint inflammation and to prevent severe bleeding.
Most people with hemophilia can manage their condition and lead normal lives. People who do not receive factor replacement therapy face many complications. Additionally, some people treated with blood products for a long time may become resistant to treatment. This can occur because their immune system starts producing inhibitor antibodies that neutralize the clotting factors they receive. People with severe hemophilia are at higher risk of developing this type of reaction.
Complications of hemophilia include:
People with hemophilia are at increased risk for blood-borne infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. Although contracting HIV from blood products is rare nowadays, about one third of adults with hemophilia are infected with HIV.
Your health care provider will want to see you every 6 to 12 months. Your provider may also suggest centers where you can receive a range of treatments and learn more about how to manage your condition.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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