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The symptoms of von Willebrand disease vary from person to person and can be the same for all three types of the disease. In general, however, bleeding episodes are usually milder and less pronounced in persons with type 1 VWD than in those with type 3 (Figure 3). But even persons with type 1 VWD can suffer from severe bleedings. In severe and moderate forms of VWD, the same type of bleedings can occur as in people with haemophilia A and B, but the difference is that persons with VWD easily develop mucosal bleeds.

Persons with a mild form of VWD often only experience mild bleeding difficulties. These are expressed as an increased tendency to bruises and mucosal bleedings, such as nosebleeds and heavy menstruation. Even though these problems may seem insignificant in daily life, there is an increased risk of having severe bleedings during trauma, surgery or tooth extractions.

Persons with a severe form of VWD easily bleed in, for example, joints, muscles and mucosa. These bleedings can be painful and can result in degeneration in joint capsules, cartilage and bones if they are not treated. This, in turn, can lead to permanently decreased mobility. Early signs of internal bleedings in joints and muscles are swelling, tension and warmth, and mobility is reduced.

von Willebrand diseases is characterised by three types (types 1-3)

Type 1 implies low concentrations of VWF and is the most common form of the disease. Type 2 is more unusual and implies a qualitative defect of the VWF. Type 3 in which all VWF is lacking, is the most severe form of the disease and also the most uncommon.

In general, the symptoms are milder in persons with type 1 than in those with type 2 or 3, but persons with type 1 can suffer from severe bleedings that need treatment.

 Symptoms that generally characterise the different types of VWD: 

  • Spontaneous bleeds in joints and muscles
  • Abnormally long bleedings after tooth loss or extraction
  • Prolonged and heavy menstruation
  • Bleedings from the nose and mucosa
  • Increased risk of bruises

Page updated: 2016-06-17