What is VWD?

women sitting

von Willebrand disease, or VWD, is the most common inherited bleeding disorder, and it affects both men and women. Most cases of VWD are mild and may not produce noticeable symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed.

VWD occurs when von Willebrand factor (VWF), a protein that helps form blood clots to stop bleeding, is missing or doesn’t work the way it should. Because of this, when people with VWD bleed from cuts or injuries, their bleeding takes longer to stop.

How do you get VWD?

In most cases, VWD is inherited, meaning it is passed down through the genes. Each type of VWD is inherited differently. A man or woman with VWD has at least a 50% chance of passing on the VWD gene to his or her child. On rare occasions, people who didn’t inherit an abnormal gene can develop VWD. This condition, known as acquired von Willebrand syndrome, is caused by an underlying medical condition.

A family tree of VWD

A person who has VWD has a 1-in-2 chance of passing on the gene to his or her children.

Graphic of a family tree of VWD

Roberta is 4th-generation VWD


We can trace von Willebrand’s back to my great grandfather on my dad’s side. My father had 4 daughters and a son. All 5 of us have a bleeding disorder.”

—Roberta, person treating VWD with HUMATE-P

There are 3 types of VWD

Type 1

of cases

Low amounts of

VWF. Most common

type of VWD

Type 2

of cases

VWF does not function

properly. Four subtypes

2A, 2B, 2M, 2N

Type 3

of cases

Extremely low levels of

VWF or no VWF. Most

severe type of VWD

Everyone’s VWD experience is unique. Your symptoms and their severity may differ from the description of your type of VWD.

Could my symptoms be VWD?

A person who has VWD may experience symptoms such as bruising for no apparent reason, spontaneous nosebleeds, or prolonged bleeding after an injury, childbirth, dental procedure, or surgery. Women who have VWD may experience heavy or prolonged menstrual periods—and they may think their heavy bleeding is normal because it runs in the family.

VWD bleeding may be mild, moderate, or severe. Some people may not have any symptoms at all.

VWD is generally characterized by abnormal bleeding and bruising

Graphic of easy bruising

Easy bruising

Frequent or prolonged nosebleeds

Frequent or prolonged nosebleeds

Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods

Heavy or prolonged menstrual periods

Prolonged bleeding in childbirth

Prolonged bleeding in childbirth

Prolonged bleeding after surgery

Prolonged bleeding after surgery

Prolonged bleeding during dental procedures

Prolonged bleeding during dental procedures

Bekah’s diagnosis journey with VWD


It all made sense once we were diagnosed, but VWD is not something I would have ever thought of.”

—Bekah, person treating VWD with HUMATE-P

What does von Willebrand factor have to do with bleeding?

Von Willebrand factor (VWF) plays a key role in forming blood clots. The body forms blood clots to protect against excessive bleeding. The process, known as coagulation, is a sequence of steps that lead to clot formation. Coagulation involves several clotting factors and is triggered when a blood vessel is injured.

VWF is a protein molecule that plays an important role in coagulation. Some other important components of coagulation are:

Graphic of platelet


blood cells that gather at the site of blood vessel injury

Graphic of green circle

Factor VIII (FVIII):

a protein in the blood that is needed for clot formation

Graphic of fibrin


a tough web-like protein that holds platelets together and keeps the clot in place

When activated, VWF attracts platelets and binds them to the injured blood vessel wall. VWF also carries FVIII, a key component of the coagulation cascade, to the blood vessel injury. This process involves the interaction of multiple clotting factors and results in the formation of a fibrin blood clot.

The clotting process step by step

Normal Clotting

Before blood vessel injury

VWF bound to FVIII and platelets circulate in the blood

normal clotting blood vessel before injury


FVIII and VWF levels or activity are low

VWD before blood vessel injury

VWF Activations

VWF carries FVIII and releases it at the site of injury

Normal clotting with VWF activation

Less FVIII is brought to the site of injury

VWD in VWF activation

Platelet Activation

VWF attracts platelets to the injury

Platelets stick together, forming a “plug”

Normal clotting and platelet activation

Fewer platelets are attracted to the injury

Little or no “plug” is formed

VWD and platelet activation

Fibrin Formation

Activated FVIII and other clotting factors in the coagulation cascade interact and lead to fibrin formation

Fibrin formation and normal clotting

Less FVIII is available to interact with other clotting factors, so less fibrin is formed

Fibrin formation and VWD

Blood Clot Stabilization

Fibrin strands hold the platelets together, creating a stable blood clot

blood clot stabilization in normal blood clotting

A stable blood clot is not formed, allowing bleeding to continue

Blood clot stabilization in VWD

Talk to your doctor and see if HUMATE-P is an option for you

A detailed discussion can help you and your doctor find the best treatment for your bleeding disorder. The HUMATE-P Doctor Discussion Guide can help you start the conversation.

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