Why do I bleed so easily?
It can be alarming if you bruise easily or small things bleed more than it seems they ought to. Easy bleeding can cause several complications if not managed properly. So what do you do if you think you might have a bleeding disorder? In this article, we’ll learn about the possible warning signs, risk factors, and management techniques for different types of bleeding disorders.
What’s a bleeding disorder?
If bleeding is difficult to stop or your blood doesn’t clot properly, you might have a bleeding disorder. Excessive bleeding is usually due to the inability to clot. Problems clotting may occur when you don’t have enough platelets, blood cells that attempt to plug the injury, or the platelets are abnormal in some way.
These conditions can increase the risk of anemia and dangerous bleeding, particularly after childbirth. Symptoms include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Unexplained nosebleeds
- Excessive bleeding after surgery
- Excessive bleeding from cuts
- Easy bruising
- Blood in urine or poop
Possible complications from severe bleeding disorders can include:
- Bleeding in the throat or abdomen
- Bleeding in the brain or central nervous system, which may lead to stroke
- Hard masses in bone or damage to joints
Conditions with bleeding as a symptom
Bleeding disorders can be inherited or acquired. Inherited disorders are due to genetics, and acquired disorders can develop for various reasons. Acquired disorders are more common types of bleeding disorders.
Hemophilia is an inherited blood disorder due to a lack of clotting factors. Its severity depends on how much clotting factor is in the blood. People with hemophilia are at higher risk of excessive bleeding from any cut or injury. Over time, the condition may lead to internal bleeding, damaging joints, organs, and tissues.
Von Willebrand disease
Von Willebrand factor is a protein that helps blood clot and carries another clotting protein. The severity helps classify this inherited condition. Mild cases may not need treatment, but if you have this condition, you should contact your primary care provider before taking any drug that might aggravate bleeding, including some anti-inflammatory medication. Speak with your doctor before surgery, dental work, or giving birth as well. You can prevent excessive bleeding by taking certain precautions.
Your liver produces clotting factors. Severe liver disease can limit the body’s ability to create clotting factors, increasing the risk of bleeding.
Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
When you don’t have enough platelets in your blood, it’s known as a condition called thrombocytopenia, and there’s an increased risk of bleeding. Conditions like leukemia, chemotherapy, and immune thrombocytopenia, which is when your immune system destroys platelets, may cause this type of bleeding disorder.
Platelet function disorders
When the platelets in your blood don’t function as they should, the likelihood of easy bleeding increases. These disorders can be hereditary or acquired.
Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)
DIC happens when the proteins controlling blood clotting become overactive. This condition can occur due to inflammation, infection, or cancer.
Causes and risk factors of easy bleeding
Many bleeding disorders are inherited, though some may occur later in life if your body forms antibodies that fight against natural clotting factors. You might get an acquired bleeding disorder from medical conditions, procedures, or medicines that affect your body’s natural clotting processes.
Bleeding disorder risk factors include:
- Age (newborns are more likely to get vitamin K deficiency bleeding, and acquired hemophilia A is more common in older people)
- Certain medical conditions, including cancer, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, or trauma
- Biological sex: men are more likely to get inherited hemophilia, and acquired hemophilia is more likely in pregnant people
Prevention usually is not an option for managing inherited bleeding disorders. You may be able to prevent some other bleeding disorders, for example, vitamin K shots are usually offered to all newborns in order to reduce the risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
How do I manage my bleeding disorder?
To help you manage your bleeding disorder, your primary care provider will review your medical and family history, risk factors, and symptoms. A physical exam and blood tests may also help with diagnosis. Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of the disorder, and your method of treatment may include medication and factor replacement therapy.
For management, you might need:
- Routine follow-up care
- To make healthy lifestyle changes (including diet, exercise, and stress management)
- Prophylactic treatment to reduce the risk of complications
- To learn about warning signs of various complications
- To research your condition (in order to get as much background on the disorder as you can)
Many bleeding disorders are lifelong and will need care the entire time, especially in more severe cases. Discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your situation with your primary care provider or specialist.
Looking for more? Check out our education hub, Real Talk, for additional resources to help you take care of your body, reproductive health, and more.