von Willebrand Disease Diagnosis

How is von Willebrand Disease diagnosed?

Diagnosing a bleeding disorder such as von Willebrand disease (VWD) is very important to ensuring that you receive the proper treatment. It can also be the key to living a healthy, active life.1

Because many people with VWD do not have severe symptoms, VWD can be difficult to diagnose. This is particularly true for people with type 1 or type 2 VWD, who may not get diagnosed until there is an episode of heavy bleeding (which often occurs only after surgery or trauma). Others are diagnosed because of routine blood testing before a surgery. In addition, there is no single definitive test to diagnose VWD, adding to the difficulty of diagnosis.1

Your healthcare professional can diagnose VWD by conducting a physical exam, testing your blood, and gathering information through discussions with you.

Your bleeding history and physical exam1

Your healthcare professional may start by asking when you first began to have abnormal bleeding. Expect questions about:

  • How the bleeding started
  • The location of the bleeding on your body
  • How often you bleed
  • How long the bleeding lasts/has lasted

Family history

Because many bleeding disorders are inherited, your healthcare professional will ask if you have any family members with signs of unusual bleeding, such as frequent, heavy nosebleeds, or unusually heavy menstrual periods. This can help your healthcare professional assess whether the disease is in your family.

Blood tests

Your healthcare professional will take a blood sample and send it to a lab for testing. Testing is a very important part of the evaluation process. Results will show whether you have VWD and, if so, what type.

Your healthcare professional might want to repeat certain blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. You may be referred to a hematologist, a healthcare professional specializing in blood diseases. The hematologist can confirm your diagnosis and set up any follow-up care.

Testing for VWD is complicated. It requires many different kinds of blood tests. For this reason, if you believe you have VWD, it is important to go to a qualified treatment center where the staff is experienced in testing for bleeding disorders.

Reference

  1. What is von Willebrand disease? National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vwd. Accessed October 21, 2014.
Coagulation