What is Von Willebrand disease?

Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder. It’s caused by a deficiency of a blood-clotting protein known as the von Willebrand factor, one of the proteins in the body that help the blood clot.


The symptoms of VWD can vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the disease. Many children with mild VWD may have no symptoms. Others may have:

  • frequent or prolonged nosebleeds
  • excessive bleeding from minor cuts
  • large bruises from minor bumps or injuries
  • prolonged or heavy bleeding from the gums during dental cleaning or other dental procedures
  • heavy bleeding after surgery
  • heavy menstrual bleeding in girls


VWD is diagnosed with blood tests to measure the levels and function of the Von Willebrand factor in the blood.


Many children need treatment only before a procedure, such as surgery or tooth extraction. In some cases, more frequent treatment is necessary. Treatment options may include one or more of the following:

  • desmopressin (DDAVP), a synthetic hormone given by an injection into a vein or through a nasal spray that causes an increased release of Von Willebrand factor in the blood
  • Von Willebrand factor replacement therapy, to replace the missing or low- clotting factor
  • oral medications to help make clots more stable

Learn more about Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.

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