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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Von Willebrand disease

Matenga Von Willebrand

Picture of woman with bleeding noseVon Willebrand disease (vWD) is a condition that affects your blood's ability to clot.

It means you have low or poor quality von Willebrand factor in your blood, which is needed to stick platelets together to help stop bleeding.

vWD is an inherited condition, which means it's passed on from your mother or father. Unlike haemophilia, vWD affects males and females equally.

Symptoms of von Willebrand disease

The symptoms of vWD can range from very mild and barely noticeable to frequent and severe. Sometimes vWD isn't diagnosed until after you've had minor surgery (such as a tooth removal), where the surgeon notices heavier or long-lasting bleeding.

The main symptoms of vWD are:

Diagnosing von Willebrand disease

If your general practice team thinks you may have a bleeding problem, they will refer you to a specialist (haematologist). They can do tests for disorders like vWD, such as checking how long you bleed before your blood clots.

Your doctor will want to know about your personal and family medical history, especially if anyone else in your family has a bleeding disorder.

Treating von Willebrand disease

People with mild forms of vWD do not usually require special medicines unless they have surgery, dental work or an accident or injury.

Minor bleeding problems like bruising can be managed with the P.R.I.C.E approach (protect, rest, ice, compression and elevation).

You may need medicine to help stop bleeding. Possible medicines include tranexamic acid, desmopressin and concentrated von Willebrand factor.

Self-care with von Willebrand disease

If you have vWD, it's important to:

You can get information and help from the Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand, which offers support, newsletters, camps, kids activities, education and advice.

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


Page reference: 696044

Review key: HIBLD-52881