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What Is Von Willebrand Disease?

Von Willebrand disease keeps platelets from sticking to holes in blood vessels to patch them. It is passed down from parents to children (genetic).

Healthy platelets stick to wounds and to each other to help form clots that stop bleeding. A protein in the blood and blood vessels called von Willebrand factor causes platelets to stick to injured vessel walls.

If there's not enough of this protein or the protein does not work right, the platelets do not stick. This can lead to excess bleeding.

There are three main subtypes of von Willebrand disease. The first two are by far the most common.

Type 1 von Willebrand disease

People with this type have normal von Willebrand factor, but not enough of it for proper clotting.

They may also be low on one other clotting factor, called Factor VIII. This type of the disease tends to be mild. It is the most common type.

Type 2 von Willebrand disease

In people with this type, there's something abnormal about the von Willebrand factor itself.

Type 3 von Willebrand dsease

People with this type have little to no von Willebrand factor and often very little Factor VIII. This type is severe.

Von Willebrand Disease in Children

Children can get von Willebrand disease if their parents have it. In general, an adult with the disease has a 1 in 2 chance of passing down the gene that causes the condition.

However, the genetics of von Willebrand disease are very complicated.

Usually, but not always, children who get the gene from just one parent will have type I or type II disease. They may have no symptoms, or their symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Children who get the gene from both parents will likely have type III disease.

Girls and boys are equally likely to get the disease. The risks can be more complex for girls once they start their menstrual period.

Von Willebrand Disease at Seattle Children's

At Seattle Children's, we offer a full range of services to diagnose and treat this disease.

We can also counsel parents who have this disease and want to know more about their risk of passing it down to their children (called genetic counseling).

If one person in a family has been diagnosed with this disease, we often suggest screening other family members to see if they have it, too.

For children with von Willebrand disease who need frequent treatment, we coordinate care with the hemophilia nurse specialists at Puget Sound Blood Center.

Read more about our experience and treatment of blood diseases through our Hematology Program.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

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Spring 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

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Download Spring 2014 (PDF)