What causes bleeding disorders?

Bleeding disorders are caused by problems with any of the three processes needed for proper hemostasis, or blood clot formation. These processes are vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), platelet coagulation (platelets gathering together to form a plug), and clotting factor activity.

There are a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that can cause bleeding disorders. Some of them are inherited (passed from parent to child through genes) and some are acquired.

Vascular (blood vessel) causes of bleeding disorders

Vascular problems that may cause bleeding disorders include:

  • Allergic purpura (thought to be an autoimmune disorder that makes blood vessels leaky)

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (inherited disorder that makes blood vessels fragile and prone to injury)

  • Hemorrhagic telangiectasia (inherited disorder causing abnormalities in blood vessels and episodes of severe bleeding)

Platelet-related causes of bleeding disorders

Bleeding disorders can be caused by not having enough platelet cells or by having platelet cells that do not work properly. Platelet cells are vital to the clotting process. A low number of working platelets is called thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia results in a platelet plug that is not complete.

Causes of thrombocytopenia include:

  • Blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma

  • Bone marrow diseases

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy

  • HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)

  • Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP; an autoimmune disorder that is also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura)

  • Inherited or genetic conditions

  • Kidney failure

  • Liver disease (includes any type of liver problem, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure)

  • Medications, including aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), penicillin antibiotics, quinine, sulfa antibiotics, and gold salts

  • Splenic sequestration (pooling of platelets within the spleen)

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

Clotting factor-related causes of bleeding disorders

There are as many as 20 different proteins that function in your blood as clotting factors. Clotting factors undergo a complex process that results in the production of a substance called fibrin. Fibrin solidifies, or finishes the clot that was started by the platelet cells forming a plug. The clotting factors depend on each other to function properly. Bleeding disorders can be caused by a clotting factor deficiency.

Causes of clotting factor deficiency include:

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Certain bacterial infections

  • Certain cancer treatments

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which also reduces platelets in the blood

  • Fat malabsorption disorders

  • Hemophilia A (inherited deficiency of factor VIII)

  • Hemophilia B (inherited deficiency of factor IX that is also known as Christmas disease)

  • Liver disease

  • Medications, including warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, and certain cancer chemotherapies

  • Other inherited clotting factor deficiencies (factors II, V, VII, X, XII)

  • Vitamin K deficiency

  • von Willebrand’s disease (inherited disorder)

What are the risk factors for bleeding disorders?

A number of factors are thought to increase your chances of developing a bleeding disorder. However, the risks for developing a bleeding disorder are specific to each disorder. Common risk factors include:

  • Family history of bleeding or bleeding disorder

  • Male gender (hemophilia A and B)

  • Presence of other diseases, disorders or conditions known to cause bleeding disorders

  • Use of anticoagulant medications including warfarin (Coumadin)

INTRODUCTION

What are bleeding disorders?

Bleeding disorders are a group of disorders that lead to problems forming blood clots and prolonged bleeding that is hard to stop. Normally, blood flows through your body in vessels called arteries and veins. When a blood vessel is cut or injured, blood flows out, causing bruising and bleeding. Your body stops the ble... Read more about bleeding disordersintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of bleeding disorders?

The primary symptom of bleeding disorders is prolonged or excessive bleeding. This can take many different forms in the body and depends on the specific bleeding disorder. Some signs of bleeding disorders can be found only during a medical examination or with special lab tests.... Read more about bleeding disorderssymptoms

TREATMENTS

How are bleeding disorders treated?

Treatment for bleeding disorders begins with seeking medical care from your healthcare provider. To determine whether you have a bleeding disorder, your healthcare provider will likely draw blood samples for laboratory testing.... Read more about bleeding disorderstreatments

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 25, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation