There are many life-threatening medical conditions that many of us know little to nothing about, unless we happen to have a family member who suffers from such a condition.

Thankfully, nowadays most people realize how very important it is to get the word out about various diseases in order to raise awareness about the difficulties some of those around us have to deal with every day.

National Hemophilia Awareness Month was declared to do just that: shed some light on a condition that is still unknown to many, and find ways to help hemophiliacs who may feel all alone with their problems, or simply lack the financial means necessary to keep their illness under control.

In short, hemophilia is a disease that prevents the blood from clotting after an injury, meaning that a sufferer simply bleeds on and on, something that can easily cause serious health consequences, or even death.

According to the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH), about one in 10,000 people are born with this disease.

People with hemophilia bleed easily, and the blood takes a longer time to clot. They are susceptible to prolonged bleeding from small cuts; bruises and hematomas; and, frequent and hard to stop nose and gum bleeds. But, of more serious concern in these people is internal bleeding. Bleeding into the joints, usually of the knees, elbows, and ankles, causes swelling and pain and can lead to chronic arthritis while bleeding in the digestive and urinary tracts gives rise to bloody stools and urine. Bleeding into the different organs can be life threatening or can cause permanent damage in these organs.

Hemophilia is an inherited genetic condition. This condition isn’t curable, but it can be treated to minimize symptoms and prevent future health complications. In extremely rare cases, hempohilia can develop after bith. This is called “acquired hemophilia.” The inheritance pattern of hemophilia is the reason why the disease affects mainly males who invariably inherited the disease from their mother. About one in 5,000 males are born with hemophilia. In the Philippines, experts estimate that 6,000 to 8,000 Filipinos suffer from hemophilia, but only about a thousand have been diagnosed.

Signs and symptoms of hemophilia vary, depending on your level of clotting factors. If your clotting-factor level is mildly reduced, you may bleed only after surgery or trauma. If your deficiency is severe, you may experience spontaneous bleeding.

Signs and symptoms of spontaneous bleeding include:

– Unexplained and excessive bleeding from cuts or injuries, or after surgery or dental work
– Many large or deep bruises
– Unusual bleeding after vaccinations
– Pain, swelling or tightness in your joints
– Blood in your urine or stool
– Nosebleeds without a known cause
– In infants, unexplained irritability

Bleeding into the brain

A simple bump on the head can cause bleeding into the brain for some people who have severe hemophilia. This rarely happens, but it’s one of the most serious complications that can occur. Signs and symptoms include:

– Painful, prolonged headache
– Repeated vomiting
– Sleepiness or lethargy
– Double vision
– Sudden weakness or clumsiness
– Convulsions or seizures

When to see a doctor
Seek emergency care if you or your child experiences:

– Signs or symptoms of bleeding into the brain
– An injury in which the bleeding won’t stop
– Swollen joints that are hot to the touch and painful to bend

If you have a family history of hemophilia, you may want to undergo genetic testing to see if you’re a carrier of the disease before you start a family.