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Hemophilia: Preventing Bleeding Episodes

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Topic Overview

How can I care for myself?

If you have hemophilia, you can take steps at home to prevent bleeding episodes and improve your health.

  • Recognize bleeding symptoms.
  • Be active, but exercise with care.
  • Be careful taking nonprescription medicines.
  • Prevent injuries and accidents around your home.

Recognize bleeding symptoms

Many people who have hemophilia know when they are bleeding even before there are many symptoms.

Bleeding in a joint

Bleeding into a joint (hemarthrosis), often without an injury, is the most common bleeding problem in people who have severe hemophilia. Bleeding usually occurs in one joint at a time. Bleeding may occur in any joint, but knees, elbows, and ankles are most commonly affected. Sometimes one particular joint, called a target joint, will tend to bleed most often.

Symptoms of bleeding into a joint include:

  • Warmth or tingling in the joint during the early stages of hemarthrosis. This is called an aura. If bleeding is not treated, mild discomfort can progress to severe pain.
  • Swelling and inflammation in the joint, caused by repeated episodes of bleeding. If episodes continue, the swelling may lead to chronic pain and destruction of the joint.
  • An infant or child not wanting to move an arm or leg because of bleeding into an affected joint. This is often first noticed when a child begins to walk.

Bleeding in a muscle

Another common symptom of hemophilia is bleeding into a muscle (hematoma), which can be mild or severe. There are many possible symptoms of bleeding into muscle, including:

  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Muscle hardening.
  • Tenderness.
  • Pain, especially when large muscle groups are affected.

It is important to begin infusion with clotting factors as soon as possible after a bleeding episode has started, before any physical signs develop. Even with treatment, bleeding is sometimes hard to control. Frequent bleeding episodes or a serious injury can lead to complications and excessive blood loss.

Work with your doctor to make a plan for what to do if you or your child has a bleed.

Be active, but careful

People who have hemophilia can help prevent bleeding episodes by choosing appropriate exercises that keep their muscles and joints in good shape. Exercise helps keep muscles flexible and strong and helps control weight, lessening the likelihood of a bleeding episode. Before you or your child participates in any sport, the family needs to learn how to administer clotting factors at home. Injuries can then be treated quickly. The sooner a bleeding episode is treated, the less damage bleeding will do to muscles and joints.

People who have hemophilia need to be careful when they participate in certain activities in order to prevent injury and serious bleeding. Stretching and warming up with a few minutes of gentle exercise are important because muscles will be less likely to be pulled or torn and therefore less likely to bleed.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 03, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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