Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand Disease

Conditions Basics

What is von Willebrand disease?

Von Willebrand disease is a bleeding disorder. When you have this problem, it takes longer for your blood to form clots, so you bleed for a longer time than other people.

Normally when a person starts to bleed, small blood cells called platelets go to the site of the bleeding. These cells clump together to help stop the bleeding. If you have von Willebrand disease, your blood doesn't clot well. This happens because you don't have a certain protein in your blood. Or you may have low levels of the protein or a form of it that's not normal. The protein is called the von Willebrand factor. It helps your blood to clot by helping the platelets stick together.

The disease can range from mild to severe. It is mild in most people. It can stay the same or get better or worse as you get older.

What are the types?

There are three major types of the disease. They range from mild to severe.

  • In type 1, you are missing some von Willebrand factor. This is the most common type. It usually causes mild bleeding episodes. You may not know you have the disease, and you may not need treatment.
  • In type 2, you have the von Willebrand factor, but it doesn't work as it should. This usually causes mild to moderate bleeding episodes.
  • In type 3, you don't have the von Willebrand factor or you have a very small amount. This type is rare. It usually causes severe bleeding episodes. Bleeding may happen without any reason and in more than one place in your body.

What causes it?

Von Willebrand disease usually is passed down through families (inherited). If you have the disease, your doctor may suggest that your family members get tested for it too.

It's also possible to get the disease later in life. This is called acquired von Willebrand disease. This rare form of the disease isn't inherited. Instead, it seems to be caused by certain diseases or medicines that decrease the amount of von Willebrand protein in your blood.

What are the symptoms?

Bleeding a lot is the main symptom of von Willebrand disease. How severe the bleeding is will be different for each person.

When the disease is mild, symptoms include:

  • Frequent nosebleeds.
  • Some bleeding from the gums.
  • Heavy menstrual periods in women.
  • Bruises that appear for no reason.
  • Heavy bleeding after an injury or surgery.

When the disease is more severe, you may also have:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Bruising easily.
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools.
  • Bleeding into the joints, which causes stiffness, pain, and swelling. This symptom is rare.

How is it diagnosed?

Von Willebrand disease can be hard to diagnose. Some people who have mild von Willebrand disease bleed about the same amount as other people do. You may not notice any symptoms until you bleed a lot after an injury, dental procedure, or surgery.

Your doctor will ask you how often and how much you bleed. If your doctor thinks you may have a problem with clotting, your doctor may suggest:

  • Blood tests that measure von Willebrand factor activity levels or von Willebrand factor antigen.
  • Genetic testing to look for gene changes and types of von Willebrand disease.

How is von Willebrand disease treated?

Treatment depends on the type of von Willebrand disease you have, how much you bleed, and your risk for heavy bleeding.

If you have von Willebrand disease, your treatment may include:

  • Desmopressin medicine (such as DDAVP, Stimate) which helps your body release more of the von Willebrand clotting factor into your blood.
  • Replacement therapy, which replaces the clotting factor in your blood.
  • Medicines to help stop blood clots from breaking down.
  • Birth control pills, or an intrauterine device (IUD) that contains hormones, to help control heavy menstrual periods.

If you have von Willebrand disease, you most likely will need to take extra care to treat and prevent bleeding episodes. Avoid NSAIDs and blood thinners. Try to stay at a healthy weight and keep active. This helps keep your muscles and joints healthy. Avoid sports or activities where injury and bleeding are likely, such as football and hockey.

Tell all your doctors and other health professionals, such as your dentist, that you have this disease. Doctors need to know about it before you have any procedures, because you may be at risk for dangerous bleeding.

Most large hospitals have a "bleeding disorders" resource center. Learn the phone number to the center closest to you, and carry it with you.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Bruises and Blood Spots Under the Skin Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Hemophilia Nosebleeds

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details