von Willebrand Disease
by Amy Scholten, MPH
von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a genetic blood disorder. It decreases the amount or the effectiveness of von Willebrand factor. This factor is a sticky protein. It helps to make a plug at the site of an injury to stop bleeding. vWD can lead to bleeding problems.
There are 3 major types of vWD:
vWD is caused by a gene defect. This defect is most often passed down from the parent.
A child can develop type 1 or type 2 vWD if just one parent has the defect. For type 3, both parents must have the defective gene. Some people may have the gene for vWD without having problems. They can still pass this gene to their children.
vWD can be caused by other health conditions or medicines. This is called acquired von Willebrand syndrome.
The risk of vWD is higher in people with family members who have it. .
Many people with the vWD gene do not have problems. It may be noticed after an injury or a procedure.
Symptoms usually start in childhood. They tend to waver throughout life. The seriousness will differ from person to person. They may involve:
Type 3 vWD can also result in serious bleeding with no obvious cause. This type can also cause bleeding into the joints. This can cause joint swelling and pain.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. Symptoms and blood tests will confirm it and find the type.
Many people with vWD do not need treatment for it. If needed, it depends on the type and seriousness of vWD. Most times, treatment is needed while having a medical or dental procedure.
This may involve:
Special steps are taken during childbirth for women with vWD.
vWD is a genetic disease and cannot be prevented.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Hemophilia Foundation
Canadian Hemophilia Society
Sharma R, Flood VH. Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of Von Willebrand disease. Blood. 2017;130(22):2386-2391.
von Willebrand disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/von-willebrand-disease . Accessed July 20, 2021.
Von Willebrand disease. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/thrombocytopenia-and-platelet-dysfunction/von-willebrand-disease. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Von Willebrand disease. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/bleeding-disorders . Accessed July 20, 2021.
Von Willebrand disease. National Hemophilia Foundation website. Available at: https://www.hemophilia.org/bleeding-disorders-a-z/overview/women-and-bleeding-disorders . Accessed July 20, 2021.
Last reviewed Juky 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/20/2021