You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor if you think you have a bleeding problem. But in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of bleeding disorders (hematologist).
If you're in the middle of a severe bleeding episode, your doctor may recommend immediate medical care.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, including what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if you need to do anything in advance. You may need to follow dietary restrictions or fast for eight to 10 hours if blood tests are scheduled.
- List any bleeding signs or symptoms you've had, including how often, its severity and for how long. For example, your doctor will want to know if you had a history of nosebleeds or easy bruising since childhood or — for women — if your periods have been extended and heavy since you first started menstruating.
- List key personal information, including any major stresses or recent changes — both positive and negative — in your life. Include a short description of your typical daily diet. Also mention any contact sports you've played and whether you ever developed excessive bruising after playing.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other medical problems for which you're being treated. Be sure to mention if any close relatives have a history of easy bleeding. Also list any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking, including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox). If possible, bring all your medications with you in their original containers.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- List questions to ask your doctor.
For von Willebrand disease, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely reason for my symptoms?
- What treatment do you recommend, and how will you monitor whether it's working?
- What are the possible side effects of the medications you're prescribing?
- Does this condition increase my risk of any other medical problems?
- What steps will I need to take to prevent problems from surgery or dental procedures?
- Does this condition increase my risk of health problems during pregnancy and childbirth? Are treatment options available to reduce that risk?
- Are my children or other close relatives at increased risk of this condition?
- Do I need to avoid certain physical activities or types of exercise?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin having episodes of prolonged or heavy bleeding?
- How often do you have an episode of heavy or prolonged bleeding, and how long do these episodes typically last?
- Do you bruise easily or have recurrent nosebleeds? Did these symptoms begin in childhood?
- Have you ever had bleeding from a small wound that lasted more than 15 minutes or recurred during the week following the wound?
- Have you ever had a nosebleed that lasted more than 10 minutes or needed medical attention?
- For women, for how many days do your menstrual periods last? How often do you have to change your tampon or sanitary pad during a period? Do you ever notice blood clots in your menstrual flow?
- Have you ever had blood in your stool that wasn't explained by a known medical problem, such as a stomach ulcer or colon polyp?
- Have you ever needed medical attention for a bleeding problem during or after surgery, dental procedures, childbirth or injury?
- Have you ever had anemia or needed a blood transfusion?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for other medical problems, including liver or kidney disease, a blood or bone marrow disorder, or an abnormal blood platelet count?
- Do you take pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen? What about blood-thinning medications, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin?
- Do you take an antidepressant, such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva, others) or sertraline (Zoloft)?
- Does anyone in your family have a history of bleeding problems?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, avoid pain relievers that may increase your risk of bleeding episodes, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. If you need relief for routine aches and pains, try acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) instead.
Steer clear of contact sports associated with a high risk of bruising or injury, such as football and hockey. If you have any medical or dental procedures scheduled, tell your doctor or dentist about your history of heavy bleeding from minor injuries. If a scheduled procedure is not urgent, reschedule it until after you've been evaluated for a possible underlying bleeding disorder.