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What is Hemophilia?

Hemophilia is a rare genetic (inherited) disorder in which a person’s blood cannot clot properly. Because of this, when a person with hemophilia gets a large cut or suffers internal injuries, he’ll bleed for a longer time and have difficulty healing.

How clotting is affected by hemophilia

Normally, when people injure themselves, their blood clots in a few minutes. This stops the bleeding, and helps the wound heal. The blood is able to clot because it has proteins called clotting factors. These clotting factors are always on “stand by” – and spring into action when an injury occurs.

A person with hemophilia is missing, or has too little, of a clotting factor. The type of hemophilia they have depends on the clotting factor they lack. Without enough clotting factor, the blood cannot clot properly after an injury.

It’s a common myth that people with hemophilia bleed more, or bleed more quickly – but this isn’t the case. But, they do bleed for a longer period of time. This can be a serious issue if someone has a large external wound or internal injuries (inside the body). Minor cuts and scrapes are rarely serious.

Diagram showing how in hemophilia patients, blood cannot clot properly because of poor platelet plug and fibrin clot formation How the blood clots in people with and without hemophilia

Adapted from the National Hemophilia Foundation. Available at: http://www.hemophilia.org/NHFWeb/MainPgs/MainNHF.aspx?menuid=26&contentid=5&rptname=bleeding.

Hemophilia can range from mild to severe

It is important to know what type of hemophilia you or your loved one has. This will tell you whether it’s a Factor VIII deficiency (Hemophilia A), Factor IX deficiency (Hemophilia B), or a more unusual type (like Hemophilia C). It’s also important to know how severe their hemophilia is. Two people with hemophilia can have very different symptoms depending on its severity. The severity of hemophilia depends on how much clotting factor is “turned on”, or active, in the blood.

The table below shows how a person with hemophilia A or B can have mild, moderate, or severe symptoms depending on how much Factor VIII or IX is working in their blood.

Severity Factor VIII or IX Level Type of Bleeding
Severe Less than 1% of normal Spontaneous bleeding into joints or muscles, usually without any apparent cause.
Moderate 1% – 5% of normal Occasional spontaneous bleeding; longer-lasting bleeding with minor trauma or surgery.
Mild 5% – <40% of normal Severe bleeding with major trauma or surgery. Spontaneous bleeding is rare.

XMYTH: People with hemophilia can bleed to death from minor cuts.

checkmarkFACT: Minor external wounds or cuts are usually not serious. But, internal bleeding can be serious. Internal bleeding can occur in the joints (especially the knees, ankles or elbows) and vital organs.

Information Booklet on Mild Hemophilia

A booklet for people living with milder forms of hemophilia, developed by the Atlantic Hemophilia Nurses Group of the Canadian Association of Nurses in Hemophilia Care (CANHC).

Download Booklet on Mild Hemophilia

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