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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Haemophilia

Matenga toto tepe-kore

Graphic comparing bleeding  with and without haemophiliaHaemophilia (hee-mo-fill-ee-a) is a rare condition that affects your blood's ability to clot.

When most people cut themselves, clotting factors in their blood combine with blood cells called platelets to make their blood sticky. This makes the bleeding stop.

If you have haemophilia, you're missing a clotting factor in your blood. This means your blood doesn’t clot properly and you bleed for longer than usual.

The two most common types of haemophilia are:

Haemophilia is mostly an inherited condition, which means it's passed on from your parents. In some cases, however, it's the result of a brand-new genetic mutation.

Haemophilia is rare and mainly affects males: one in 10,000 males born in New Zealand has haemophilia. Female carriers of haemophilia can also have symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Symptoms of haemophilia

The symptoms of haemophilia can be mild to severe, depending on the level of clotting factor you have. Someone with haemophilia will inherit a similar level of clotting factor to their parent.

The main symptom is prolonged bleeding. For some people, the bleeding will not stop without an injection of the right clotting factor medicine.

Bleeding can be external or internal:

In babies, the first signs of haemophilia are usually easy bruising or bleeding from their mouth from bites to their gums and tongue.

Diagnosing haemophilia

See your doctor if:

You'll be asked to have a blood test, which can diagnose haemophilia and find out how severe it is.

If there is no family history of haemophilia, it's usually diagnosed when a child begins to walk or crawl. Mild haemophilia may only be discovered later, usually after an injury or a dental or surgical procedure.

Treating haemophilia

There is no cure for haemophilia, but there is treatment that means you can enjoy a good quality of life. With proper treatment, life expectancy for people with haemophilia is the same as those without haemophilia. The aim of the treatment is to reduce the risk of prolonged and excessive bleeding. Bleeding can be controlled by injections of a clotting factor medicine.

Pain relief and physiotherapy are also part of the treatment programme.

Complications with haemophilia

Repeated bleeding in and around your joints causes damage to them. This is similar to the damage and pain caused by arthritis, but with haemophilia you're likely to experience it at an earlier age.

In the past, there has also been the risk of infection from blood-borne viruses. But in New Zealand, blood-donor screening and the use of recombinant factor products have removed nearly all risk of getting viruses through blood products.

Self-care with haemophilia

Good self-care includes:

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Treating haemophilia

Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Last reviewed May 2023.

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Review key: HIBLD-52881