Signs of a bleeding disorder
Bleeding disorders are actually more common than many people realise, for example, an estimated 1% of the population are affected by von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD). However, there are only approximately 7000 people diagnosed of which around 5000 are women. This means that up to 295,000 women could be living with VWD without knowing it.
Having one or more of the following symptoms may indicate a bleeding disorder:
- Frequent or heavy nosebleeds
- Heavy and prolonged menstrual periods
- Easy bruising, or prolonged bleeding from minor cuts and scratches
- Bleeding heavily or for a long time after having a tooth removed, surgery or giving birth
- Having a family member with any of these symptoms
The above list covers the main symptoms of the most common bleeding disorders, however not all conditions are the same, and there are some symptoms which are not listed above. The specific symptoms of each individual condition are detailed in About bleeding disorders
Correct diagnosis is essential, even in mild cases, to prevent potentially dangerous bleeding following an accident, surgery, dental procedure or childbirth. Symptoms such as heavy or prolonged menstrual periods can have a huge impact on quality of life, but effective treatments are available once a diagnosis is made.
Menstrual bleeding – how heavy is too heavy?
Because bleeding disorders like VWD are mainly inherited conditions, several members of the same family may be affected. Certain symptoms, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, can therefore seem normal within a family and may not have been investigated before.
Because every woman is different, there is no definitive model of a “normal” period. Statistically, the average blood loss from a single menstrual period is 30 - 40ml. Blood loss of 80ml or above is considered heavy.
Heavy periods can be very difficult to measure but there is a tool used by doctors called the Pictorial Bleeding Checklist. By completing this chart over the course of your period and adding up your score, you can assess whether or not your periods may be classed as heavy. Please note this tool is only a guide and if you are experiencing problems with your periods you should always consult your GP.