What are bleeding disorders? Bleeding disorders are a group of abnormalities 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 bleeding through a process called hemostasis. Hemostasis normally takes only a few minutes. Ineffective hemostatis leads to spontaneous bleeding and bleeding that will not stop. Hemostasis includes three major steps that all need to function correctly in order to stop bleeding effectively. First, blood vessels need to constrict or narrow when they are damaged or cut. This is called vasoconstriction. Second, cells called platelets need to form a platelet plug at the site of the vessel injury. Third, a complex system of clotting factors is required to finish the clotting process. If any of these three components fail, or work only partially, your body is not able to make a proper blood clot. This results in prolonged bleeding. Bleeding disorders can be caused by a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions. Some of these causes are hereditary (passed from parent to child through genes) and some are acquired. Inherited or hereditary causes of bleeding disorders include hemophilia and von Willebrand’s disease. Other causes of bleeding disorders may include autoimmune disorders, blood cancers, bone marrow problems, infections, kidney failure, liver disease, and medications. Because of the wide variety of causes, the exact incidence of bleeding disorders in the United States is not known. Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common bleeding disorder in the United States, affecting approximately 1% to 2% of the population, according to the Hemophilia Federation of America (Source: HFA). Treatment of bleeding disorders depends on the specific disorder. Bleeding disorders may cause uncontrolled internal or external bleeding. This can lead to serious or life-threatening complications, such as anemia, dangerous blood loss, and shock and damage to vital internal organs, such as the brain. Seek prompt medical care if you, or your child, have symptoms of a bleeding disorder, such as easy or excessive bruising after a minor injury, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have serious symptoms, such as bleeding from a wound that does not stop after a few minutes, blood in the urine or stool, vomiting blood, major rectal bleeding, continued dizziness, or shortness of breath.