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von Willebrand Disease

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


von Willebrand Disease


von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a genetic blood disorder. It decreases the amount or the effectiveness of von Willebrand factor. This factor is a sticky protein. It helps make a plug at the site of an injury to stop bleeding. vWD can lead to bleeding problems.

There are 3 major types of vWD:

  • Type 1—most mild and most common form
  • Type 2—less common than type 1
  • Type 3—most serious form and very rare
Genetic Material.

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vWD is caused by a gene problem. It is most often passed down from the parent.

A child can develop type 1 or type 2 vWD if just one parent has the gene problem. For type 3, both parents must have the gene problem. Some people may have the gene for vWD and not have bleeding problems. They can still pass this gene to their children.

vWD can be caused by other health issues or medicines. This is called acquired von Willebrand syndrome.

Risk Factors

The risk of vWD is higher in people with family members who have it.


Many people with the vWD gene do not have problems. It may be noticed after an injury or a procedure.

Symptoms usually start in childhood. They tend to waver throughout life. The seriousness will differ from person to person. They may involve:

  • Easy bruising
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums and minor cuts
  • Heavy bleeding during menstrual periods
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bleeding after childbirth or other trauma

Type 3 vWD can also result in serious bleeding with no clear cause. This type can also cause bleeding into the joints. This can cause joint swelling and pain.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. Symptoms and blood tests will confirm it and find the type.


Many people with vWD do not need treatment for it. If needed, it depends on the type and seriousness of vWD. Most times, treatment is needed while having a medical or dental procedure.

This may involve:

  • Desmopressin nasal spray or injection—Raises the level of vWF in the blood. It may be used to control bleeding in mild cases of type 1.
  • IV infusions of von Willebrand factors—To control bleeding.
  • Birth control pills—To control heavy menstrual periods in those with type 1 vWD.
  • Antifibrinolytic medicine—For bleeding in the nose or mouth. It keeps a clot from being dissolved before the bleeding has stopped.
  • Recombinant Factor VIIIa—If antibodies to von Willebrand Factor are formed.

Special steps are taken during childbirth for pregnant people with vWD.


vWD cannot be prevented.





  • Sharma, R. and Flood, V.H. Advances in the diagnosis and treatment of Von Willebrand disease. Blood, 2017; 130 (22): 2386-2391.
  • von Willebrand disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/von-willebrand-disease.
  • Von Willebrand disease. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/thrombocytopenia-and-platelet-dysfunction/von-willebrand-disease.
  • Von Willebrand disease. National Hemophilia Foundation website. Available at: https://www.hemophilia.org/bleeding-disorders-a-z/types/von-willebrand-d.
  • What are bleeding disorders. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/bleeding-disorders.


  • Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.