- Conditions affecting blood clotting affect around 43,000 women in the UK
- However, according to the latest statistics, only over a third have been diagnosed with
- Doctors are now being urged to ask more questions in women with heavy periods
- Experts believe it may help reveal more obvious signs of a blood clotting disorder.
Thousands of young women who experience heavy periods are unknowingly suffering from a genetic disorder that puts them at higher risk of life-threatening complications during childbirth.
According to the latest figures, conditions affecting the ability of blood to clot affect around 43,000 women in the UK, yet only over a third have been diagnosed.
The most well-known clotting disorder is hemophilia, which causes internal bleeding that is often severe, and although it is rare, it mainly affects males.
However, women can also be carriers of the hemophilia gene and may be mildly affected – something doctors are unaware of.
There are other blood-clotting disorders that affect men and women equally that are more common but, paradoxically, less known.
While in men they often cause few symptoms, women who suffer them often experience menstrual problems.
According to international studies, one in five women who seek medical advice for heavy periods will have a bleeding disorder but are not tested for, which experts say is a missed opportunity.
Now, in an effort to improve the level of diagnosis of bleeding disorders, experts are calling on GPs and doctors to ask a series of questions that will uncover the telltale signs when patients complain of heavy or very long periods, including: Whether or not similar symptoms run in the family.
Gemma Gardner (pictured with daughter Summer), 42, is an example. Despite suffering from heavy periods that ‘erased’ him and bleeding for several days after going to the dentist, it wasn’t until his son was diagnosed with hemophilia at the age of eight months was done, his own problem was raised.
The Hemophilia Society has also launched an online symptom-checker questionnaire, which aims to encourage women who suspect they may have an undiagnosed problem to visit a doctor and request the right tests.
Other telltale signs of an undiagnosed bleeding disorder include frequent bruising, nose bleeds, or prolonged bleeding after dental treatment. Serious problems can occur during or after surgery, which can lead to severe blood loss and poor healing of wounds.
Heavy periods are associated with anemia, a lack of red blood cells in the body that leads to symptoms including debilitating tiredness, feeling extremely cold and pale skin.
Women with bleeding disorders also often have complicated labor with heavy bleeding. In extreme cases, it can prove fatal.
Bleeding disorders specialist nurse Debra Pollard says, ‘Since hemophilia affects men the most, doctors often think that women do not have a bleeding disorder, but this is not the case.
One victim, university lecturer Joe Traunter, suffered from bruising and heavy periods, but was not diagnosed until the age of 37.
York’s mother-in-law, now 53, said: ‘I thought it was normal to be menstruating for ten days, as my mother had the same. At that time women didn’t really talk openly about such things.’
Shortly before giving birth to her third child by planned caesarean section, Joe was diagnosed with the genetic bleeding condition Von Willebrand’s disease.
She says: ‘The anesthetist called me before I went in. She said she remembered the delivery of my second child, which was also a caesarean, and I was bleeding profusely which meant it was a difficult delivery. That was nine years ago, so it must have been bad to be on his mind.
Periods lasting more than seven days, or the need to replace products that last two hours or less, may indicate a problem.
‘He suggested that I go to a hematology clinic before my next c-section. I explained my symptoms and history and they basically told me on the spot that they thought I had von Willebrand, which the tests confirmed.
‘My next C-section was even more complicated than the last one, but this time, the hematology team was ready to give the right medicine, so I didn’t lose too much blood. The fact is that he probably saved my life.’
There are many different types of bleeding conditions, and all involve a lack of compounds in the blood that are important to help it clot.
I have suddenly got painful spots on my back… what happened to me?
Painful acne can affect any part of the body at any age that has oil-secreting glands or hair follicles. Acne on the face is common, but half of the victims also develop acne on the back and the chest is affected in 15 percent of patients.
The spots appear when the grease-producing glands next to the hair follicles produce large amounts of oil, which in turn cause P. This usually harmless skin bacteria called acnes makes it more aggressive, leading to infection and inflammation.
The spots come in many forms, including papules, small red bumps that feel tender or sore, and pustules, similar to papules but with a white tip. Hair removal can lead to folliculitis – inflammation of the hair follicles – which may require treatment with antibiotics.
Each situation is different in terms of which compounds are missing, which means tests to flag them, and treatments vary.
The most common is von Willebrand’s disease, which is thought to affect one in 1,000 people with varying severity. Due to the type of deficiency involved, the condition does not show up on a standard GP blood test.
‘Women with uncontrolled bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand, are at higher risk of bleeding during surgery, or childbirth, which can be dangerous,’ says Debra Pollard. ,
But having heavy periods can be debilitating, and so it’s important to get diagnosed and treated.
Periods that last longer than seven days, or periods that last two hours or less may indicate a problem that requires replacing products.