What is Hemophilia?
When a blood vessel in a healthy body gets injured, blood clotting helps it heal. Cells and proteins combine to form a clot over the injury so that the bleeding stops. Eventually, the clot remodels and the vessel heals, and the body moves on to the next challenge.
Hemophilia is different. When a person with hemophilia injures a blood vessel, the blood doesn’t clot as quickly as it should. They may also have internal bleeding—which is bleeding inside of the body. For example, if they run into something or get tackled in a football game, the impact can cause the joints to bleed. Or if the person needs surgery, they might have unusually heavy bleeding afterward.
Hemophilia can range from mild to severe. Excessive bleeding can be seen in patients with mild hemophilia, as well. Excessive bleeding can cause damage to joints, tissues and even organs.
About 400 babies are born with hemophilia each year in the U.S., so it’s pretty rare. It almost exclusively affects males, but there are rare cases of females with hemophilia.
The ABCs of Hemophilia
If you’re raising a child with hemophilia, you’ve heard the phrase “clotting factor” a lot. That’s the term for the protein that blood needs to clot normally. A child with hemophilia doesn’t have enough of one particular clotting factor, or it’s missing entirely.
There are three types of hemophilia—A, B and C.
- Hemophilia A occurs when the body doesn’t make enough of factor VIII (8). It’s also the most common type of hemophilia.
- Hemophilia B occurs when the body doesn’t make enough of factor IX (9).
- Hemophilia C occurs when the body doesn’t make enough of factor XI (11).