Teach Me

Hemophilia: Could Your Child Be at Risk for This Bleeding Disorder?

About one in 5,000 children, almost always boys, are born with hemophilia, or low levels of a blood clotting factor. These low levels mean the blood doesn’t clot properly, so it can be hard to stop bleeding in children who have hemophilia.

Newborns with hemophilia might bleed excessively after circumcision. “Toddlers and older children are more likely to have bleeding in their joints or muscles,” said Laurel Truscott, MD, assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology with Banner Children's.

If hemophilia isn’t diagnosed soon after birth, parents might spot signs of swelling, pain or tightness, often in the child’s knees, elbows or ankles. Or they might notice unexplained bruising caused by bleeding under the skin. Children may bleed after vaccinations or have frequent nosebleeds that are hard to control.

Hemophilia runs in families

Hemophilia is an inherited condition, and the X chromosome carries the abnormality. Females have two X chromosomes, so they don’t usually have symptoms of hemophilia. That’s because they would need two mutated versions of the X chromosome to be affected, which is unlikely. However, they can pass the mutated gene on to their children.

“Males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, so if the abnormality is on their X chromosome, they will have the disease,” Dr. Truscott said.

“A female carrier has a 50 percent chance of passing on the abnormality to her children. Any affected daughters will be carriers, and any affected sons will have hemophilia,” Dr. Truscott said.

If you know you have family members with hemophilia, you can ask to have your baby boy tested soon after birth.

Treatment can help prevent serious problems

Hemophilia can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how extensive the bleeding is. If children bleed excessively, doctors can test their blood. If this testing shows signs of hemophilia, genetic testing can identify the exact genetic mutation that’s causing the condition.

There are different treatment options available for hemophilia, depending on how severe it is. Children with more mild hemophilia might only need medication to control bleeding if they injure themselves or if they need surgery or dental procedures.

Those who have more severe hemophilia might need to use factor treatment to replace the factor that is low, or other medication that can help their blood clot properly, so they don’t bleed excessively.

People with hemophilia need specialized care for life. Hemophilia treatment centers can provide the care they need to avoid complications. “Ongoing advances are really improving the quality of life of hemophilia patients,” Dr. Truscott said. “And many providers are dedicated to helping these patients and giving them proper care.”

The bottom line

Hemophilia is a blood disorder that is passed down from parents to children and almost always affects boys. It can be serious, but it’s treatable. The experts at Banner Health can help care for children with hemophilia and other blood diseases. Visit bannerhealth.com to find a doctor near you.

For more information about less-common childhood health conditions, check out:

Children's Health Parenting