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The Three Types of von Willebrand Disease

Kenneth D. Nahum

A graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Dr. Kenneth D. Nahum practices as a hematologist and oncologist at Regional Cancer Care Associates. In this capacity, Dr. Kenneth D. Nahum treats patients for a wide range of blood disorders, including von Willebrand disease (VWD).

VWD is a lifelong disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly. It affects up to 1 percent of the population in the United States. People with VWD have lower levels of the von Willebrand factor (VWF), a protein that helps the blood clot by ensuring platelets stick together.
Most people with the disorder have type 1 VWD, in which patients have only 20 percent to 50 percent of the normal amount of VWF present in their blood. Since there is some VWF present, the symptoms are often mild and primarily consist of mild bruises and nosebleeds.
About 15 percent to 30 percent of patients with VWD have type 2. Unlike type 1, patients with type 2 VWD have the normal amount of VWF. However, the VWF does not function properly, resulting in mild to moderate symptoms.
Type 3 VWD is found in only 5 percent to 10 percent of people with the disorder. The symptoms in these patients are severe and may include spontaneous bleeding into the muscles and joints. Individuals with this type of VWD have no measurable levels of VWF.
All three types of VWD are inherited. Children with type 1 or type 2 inherit the gene responsible for VWD from one parent, while those with type 3 inherit the abnormal genes from both parents. While the condition cannot be cured, most people can successfully manage it.

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