Hemophilia is a rare, inherited bleeding disorder in which your blood doesn’t clot normally. If you have hemophilia, you may bleed for a longer time than others after an injury. You also may bleed internally, especially in your knees, ankles and elbows. This bleeding can damage your organs or tissues and, sometimes, be fatal.
People born with hemophilia have little to none of a protein needed for normal blood clotting. The protein is called a clotting factor. There are several types of clotting factors, and they work together with platelets to help the blood clot. Platelets are small pieces of blood cells that are formed in the bone marrow. They play a major role in blood clotting.
About 18,000 people in the United States have hemophilia. Each year, about 400 babies are born with the disorder. Hemophilia usually occurs only in males (with very rare exceptions).
The major signs and symptoms of hemophilia are excessive bleeding and easy bruising.
Signs of excessive external bleeding include:
- Bleeding in the mouth from a cut or bite or from cutting or losing a tooth
- Nosebleeds for no obvious reason
- Heavy bleeding from a minor cut
- Bleeding from a cut that resumes after stopping for a short time
Signs of internal bleeding include blood in the urine (from bleeding in the kidneys or bladder) and blood in the stool (from bleeding in the intestines or stomach), or hot, painful, swollen joints (from bleeding in the knees, elbows or other joints).
The main treatment for hemophilia is called replacement therapy—giving or replacing the clotting factor that’s too low or missing. Concentrates of clotting factor are slowly dripped in or injected into a vein.