Diagnosis

Because many people with von Willebrand disease have mild signs and symptoms, the condition can be difficult to diagnose. If you have any indication of a bleeding disorder, your doctor may refer you to a blood disorders specialist (hematologist).

To evaluate you for von Willebrand disease, your doctor will likely ask you detailed questions about your medical history and check for bruises or other signs of recent bleeding.

Your doctor will also likely recommend the following blood tests:

  • Von Willebrand factor antigen. This test determines the level of von Willebrand factor in your blood by measuring a particular protein.
  • Ristocetin cofactor activity. This test measures how well the von Willebrand factor works in your clotting process. Ristocetin, which is an antibiotic, is used in this laboratory testing.
  • Factor VIII clotting activity. This test shows whether you have abnormally low levels and activity of factor VIII.
  • Von Willebrand factor multimers. This test evaluates the specific structure of von Willebrand factor in your blood, its protein complexes (multimers) and how its molecules break down. This information helps identify the type of von Willebrand disease you have.

The results of these tests can fluctuate in the same person over time due to factors such as stress, exercise, infection, pregnancy and medications. So you may need to repeat some tests.

If you have von Willebrand disease, your doctor may recommend that family members undergo the same or similar tests to determine if this condition runs in your family.