Hemophilia is a rare blood disorder in which blood doesn’t clot normally because of a lack of clotting factor, a blood protein. Individuals with hemophilia don’t bleed any faster than others, but they often bleed for a longer amount of time.
Hemophilia doesn’t occur very often, and about one in every 10,000 people are born with the disease. There are two types, hemophilia A and hemophilia B, that each refer to the lack of a different type of clotting factor. But the disease often presents the same way in people with either type of hemophilia.
In the vast majority of cases, hemophilia is a hereditary disease that is passed down from parents to children. In very rare instances, it can be acquired at some point during your lifetime. When the average person begins bleeding, the platelets in the blood start to stick together with the help of clotting factor to plug the hole and stop the bleeding. But individuals with hemophilia have little or no clotting factor, so the bleeding continues even after it should stop. This can range from mild to severe in nature, and hemophilia can be quite dangerous if left untreated.
The primary treatment for hemophilia is known as replacement therapy. Essentially, this is a therapy administered by an IV or injection that replaces the missing clotting factor in the body with new clotting factor. This can be done periodically as a preventive measure, or only periodically as the individual needs it.
There are other treatments for hemophilia, as well. For example, certain hormonal therapies can release stores of clotting factor that are already in the body, and there are also drugs often given along with replacement therapy that help prevent blood clots from breaking down.
SOURCES: World Federation of Hemophilia; National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.