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Haemophilia is a genetic condition that causes abnormal bleeding.

Haemophilia is a genetic condition that causes abnormal bleeding.
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What is haemophilia?

Haemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder. If you have haemophilia, your blood doesn’t clot properly, which makes it difficult to control bleeding.

When a blood vessel is injured, special proteins in the blood called ‘clotting factors’ act to control blood loss by plugging or patching up the injury. People with haemophilia have lower than normal levels of a clotting factor.

What are the types of haemophilia?

There are 2 types of haemophilia.

  • Haemophilia A (also called classical haemophilia) is the most common type. It is caused by lack of clotting factor 8.
  • Haemophilia B (sometimes called Christmas disease) is caused by lack of clotting factor 9.

Some people have mild haemophilia, while others are more severely affected.

What are the symptoms or signs of haemophilia?

The main signs of haemophilia are:

  • easy bruising from an early age
  • internal bleeding for no obvious reason, especially in the joints and muscles
  • greater than normal bleeding following injury or surgery
  • abnormally heavy bleeding during menstruation or after giving birth

Although bleeding problems often start from a young age, some children don’t have symptoms until they begin walking or running. People with mild haemophilia may not bleed excessively until they get an injury or have surgery. 

What causes haemophilia?

Haemophilia is an inherited condition and occurs in families, but in one in 3 cases it appears in families with no previous history of the disorder.

It is caused by a mutation a gene — the instructions found inside cells.

How is haemophilia diagnosed?

If haemophilia is suspected, blood tests can measure the levels of clotting factors. These tests can show the type and severity of the disease.

Genetic testing can often confirm a diagnosis of haemophilia, although a gene mutation can’t always be found.

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How is haemophilia managed?

It is possible to manage haemophilia effectively, although it can be complex.

When someone with haemophilia has a bleeding episode, treatment is needed to help their blood clot and stop the bleeding. This usually involves giving clotting factors by infusion or injection.

People with haemophilia need to be very careful not to injure themselves. They should learn how to recognise a bleed, as there may be no visible signs of bleeding.

Australian guidelines recommend that people with haemophilia receive care from a multidisciplinary team of health-care professionals, made up of doctors, nurses, medical scientists, physiotherapists, social workers and psychologists.

If you are diagnosed with haemophilia, you should discuss with your doctor the benefits of referral to a haemophilia treatment centre, where a multidisciplinary team can provide you with comprehensive care.

Complications of haemophilia

Complications of the disease also need to be managed, such as damage to joints and muscles that can result from bleeding into these areas.

Resources and support

Haemophilia Foundation Australia provides information and support for people with haemophilia.

Visit our genetic disorders guide to learn more about genes, types of genetic disorders and where to go for help and more information.

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Last reviewed: August 2020

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Info Boys Sex and intimacy Talking about sex in the HTC clinic Talking to young people about sex Sex and bleeds in males Sexual positions and pleasure Talking to partners Employment Career options Preparing for work Bleeds at work - causes Who to talk to about bleeds at work Things your employer can't do Your responsibilities Disclosure - Who should I tell at work? Sources & reviewers Girls What is a bleeding disorder? Haemophilia A & haemophilia B Von Willebrand disease Other bleeding disorders Diagnosing a bleeding disorder Treatment plans Periods Relationships What do I tell my other doctor or dentist? Working with your Haemophilia Treatment Centre Sport and exercise for young women Bleeding disorders Haemophilia How common is haemophilia About bleeding and bleeds What does severity mean? How is haemophilia diagnosed Signs & symptoms of haemophilia Treatment options When to treat Sources & reviewers Von Willebrand Disorder (VWD) How common is VWD How serious is VWD Types of VWD Symptoms of VWD Treatment for VWD Sources & reviewers Siblings Sports Sport - Where do I start? Getting ready to play sport Before starting a new sport - Ask yourself! Sources & reviewers Sport and exercise for young women Why exercise? What kind of sport or exercise? Getting started What can I do about heavy periods? Protection, treatment and recovery from injuries Any questions? References and reviewers Transition to adulthood Transitioning from health services Why plan ahead? What are the differences between child services and adult services? Looking after your own medication and treatment Calendars, reminders and apps! Moving out of home From childhood to adulthood Sources & Reviewers Travel Checklist for traveling alone Tips for if you hardly ever have bleeding problems Tips for if you need treatment regularly Interstate travel tips Overseas travel tips Useful travel web sites Sources & reviewers Haemophilia What is Haemophilia? Haemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder where blood doesn’t clot properly (inherited means it is passed on from parent to child through their genes)

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Information for women and girls on carrying the gene alteration causing haemophilia. This answers questions such as can females have haemophilia; what the symptoms are; how to manage bleeding problems; pregnancy and childbirth; and tips from other women who carry the gene.

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