17 April 2023 is World Haemophilia Day! But what does this disease actually entail and what do the signs and symptoms look like? We share more below.
World Haemophilia Day is observed to raise awareness and educate people about haemophilia and other bleeding disorders – where the clotting process does not work as it should. As a result, people with bleeding disorders can bleed for longer than normal, and some may experience spontaneous bleeding into joints, muscles, or other parts of their bodies.
There are two types of haemophilia: A (more common) and B. The signs are the same and include:
- Easily bruising
- Bleeding into muscles and joints, especially the knees, elbows, and ankles
- Spontaneous bleeding (sudden bleeding inside the body for no clear reason)
- Bleeding for a long time after getting a cut, removing a tooth, or having surgery
- Bleeding for a long time after an accident, especially after an injury to the head
- Bleeding into a joint or muscle causes: An ache or “funny feeling”; Swelling and warmness; Pain and stiffness; Difficulty using a joint or muscle.
Does haemophilia only occur in men?
Haemophilia affects approximately 1.1-million men worldwide, according to the World Federation of Haemophilia. For many years, people believed that only males could have symptoms of haemophilia, such as bleeding in general and bleeding into joints, and that women who carry the haemophilia gene do not experience bleeding symptoms themselves. However, recent scientific studies have shown that many women and girls do experience symptoms of haemophilia. The danger is that some women live with their symptoms for years without being diagnosed or even suspecting they have a bleeding disorder.
Approximately one third of women with haemophilia have clotting factor levels of less than 60% of normal and may experience abnormal bleeding. In most cases, they experience symptoms similar to those seen in men with mild haemophilia, as well as some that are specific to women, such as prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding, and more likely to have postpartum bleeding following childbirth.
Could my child have haemophilia?
According to the South African Haemophilia Foundation, haemophilia is an hereditary condition passed on from mother to child at the time of conception.
The median age for first bleed and first joint bleed occurs between 12-24 months. For people with severe haemophilia A, the median age at first bleed was nine months and the median age at first joint bleed was 24 months, according to the WBDR 2021 data report.
Babies have sharp teeth and bite their gums and tongue, often causing bleeding. This and bruises from falls are usually the first signs of haemophilia. Until the age of two, bleeding into joints is uncommon. Most bleeds are surface bruises. When babies are learning to walk, they fall frequently and suffer many bumps and bruises. Bleeding into the joints, soft tissues and muscles is seen more frequently after the age of two, says the SAHF.
If you have any concerns or questions, contact your medical doctor.