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HealthInfo Canterbury

Treating haemophilia

Picture of woman with bleeding nose If you have haemophilia, the aim of treatment is to reduce the risk of you getting bleeding that doesn't stop (prolonged bleeding) and bleeding too much. Bleeding can be controlled by injections of a clotting factor medicine.

Clotting factor medicines are very concentrated. A small amount can control major bleeds, even in surgery. Treatment needs to be given as quickly as possible to prevent long-term damage. The medicine can be effective for up to three days.

Most clotting factor medicines are made using genetic engineering to create artificial products that contain no human blood parts. Those that are made from donated human blood are strictly tested and made as safe as possible using steps to stop any viruses growing.

There are two main approaches to treatment, depending on the severity of your condition.

Preventative therapy

Most people with haemophilia need preventative treatment (prophylaxis). You get regular injections of clotting factor medicine to help prevent episodes of bleeding and prevent joint and muscle damage. Preventative therapy aims to keep the levels of clotting factor in the blood high enough that clots can form easily if a bleed occurs. Preventative therapy gives children the best chance to grow up without damage to their joints.

On-demand therapy

In mild or moderate cases, treatment for haemophilia may only be necessary if you are bleeding. It's essential to get treatment early so there's less chance of long-term damage and disruption to daily life. If you are treating a bleed at home or outside of the hospital you should:

Managing pain

You will need treatment to manage pain, as swelling caused by bleeds, especially in the joints, can be extremely painful. You need to avoid aspirin and most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen as they suppress platelet function and reduce blood clotting. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before trying any pain medication to discuss possible side effects.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy after a bleed helps with recovery from internal bleeding that may have damaged your joints. Your physiotherapist will give you good exercises to get your muscles and joints working again.

Adapted from Health Navigator by HealthInfo clinical advisers.. Endorsed by clinical director, Haematology Department, Canterbury DHB. Page created May 2020.

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Review key: HIBLD-52881