Early diagnosis of von Willebrand disease (VWD) is important to make sure that you're treated and can live a normal, active life.
Sometimes VWD is hard to diagnose. People who have type 1 or type 2 VWD may not have major bleeding problems. As a result, they may not be diagnosed until they have heavy bleeding after surgery or some other trauma.
On the other hand, type 3 VWD can cause major bleeding problems during infancy and childhood. As a result, children who have type 3 VWD usually are diagnosed during their first year of life.
To find out whether you have VWD, your doctor will review your medical history and the results from a physical exam and tests.
Your doctor will likely ask questions about your medical history and your family's medical history. He or she may ask about:
Your doctor will do a physical exam to look for unusual bruising or other signs of recent bleeding. He or she also will look for evidence of liver disease or anemia (a low red blood cell count).
No single test can diagnose VWD. Your doctor may recommend a combination of blood tests to diagnose the disorder. These tests may include:
• Von Willebrand factor antigen
This test measures the amount of von Willebrand factor in your blood.
• Von Willebrand factor ristocetin (ris-to-SEE-tin) cofactor activity
This test shows how well your von Willebrand factor works.
• Factor VIII clotting activity
Some people who have VWD have low levels of factor VIII activity, while others have normal levels.
• Von Willebrand factor multimers
This test is done if one or more of the first three tests are abnormal. It shows the structure of your von Willebrand factor. The test helps your doctor diagnose what type of VWD you have.
• Platelet function test
This test measures how well your platelets are working.
You may have these tests more than once to confirm a diagnosis. Your doctor also may refer you to a hematologist (a blood disease specialist) to confirm the diagnosis and for followup care.
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