Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: New guidelines for bleeding disorder

Heart Beat

New guidelines for bleeding disorder

Treatment for the most common inherited bleeding disorder, von Willebrand disease, may get a boost from new guidelines published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The half-million or more Americans with this disorder "" many of whom are unaware they have it "" have trouble with a protein known as von Willebrand factor, which helps glue platelets together. Either their bodies don't make enough of the protein or it doesn't work correctly.

To find undetected von Willebrand disease, the guidelines encourage doctors to ask their patients if they've ever had prolonged bleeding from a trivial injury, nosebleed, or surgery; extremely heavy menstrual periods; blood in the stool; or other signs of abnormal bleeding. The guidelines also recommend general treatments aimed at increasing the amount of von Willebrand factor in the bloodstream, preventing the breakdown of clots, and controlling bleeding. The guidelines are available at health.harvard.edu/124.

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