Haemophilia is a rare, inherited bleeding disorder that affects a person’s ability to form blood clots properly. This condition, often referred to as a “royal disease” due to its prevalence among European royalty, has been the subject of fascination and study for centuries. In this article, we will delve into the world of haemophilia, exploring its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is Haemophilia?
Haemophilia is a genetic disorder characterized by a deficiency in certain blood clotting factors, primarily factor VIII (haemophilia A) or factor IX (haemophilia B). These factors are essential for the blood to clot effectively. When they are deficient or absent, individuals with haemophilia experience prolonged bleeding, even from minor injuries or spontaneous bleeding episodes. Haemophilia is an X-linked recessive disorder, meaning it is more common in males, while females are usually carriers of the gene.
Symptoms of Haemophilia
1. Prolonged Bleeding: One of the hallmark symptoms of haemophilia is prolonged bleeding. Individuals may experience excessive bleeding from cuts, dental procedures, or surgery. They may also have spontaneous bleeding into joints and muscles, which can lead to pain and joint damage.
2. Easy Bruising: Haemophilia can lead to easy bruising, even from minor bumps or knocks. This is due to the fragile blood vessels that break easily when clotting factors are insufficient.
3. Joint Pain: Repeated bleeding into the joints can cause joint pain and swelling, which may lead to limited mobility and permanent joint damage. Knees, elbows, and ankles are commonly affected.
4. Nosebleeds: Frequent nosebleeds can occur in people with haemophilia, often lasting longer than in individuals without the disorder.
5. Blood in Urine or Stool: Gastrointestinal and urinary tract bleeding can occur, leading to blood in urine or stool.
Causes of Haemophilia
Haemophilia is primarily caused by genetic mutations that affect the production or function of clotting factors. It is an inherited condition, and it can be passed from parents to their children. Here’s how it happens:
1. X-Linked Recessive Inheritance: Haemophilia is inherited in an X-linked recessive manner. This means the faulty gene is located on the X chromosome. Males have one X and one Y chromosome, while females have two X chromosomes. If a female carries one faulty X chromosome and one healthy X chromosome, she is considered a carrier and may pass on the condition to her sons. If a male inherits the faulty X chromosome, he will have haemophilia.
2. Spontaneous Mutation: In some cases, haemophilia can occur in individuals without a family history of the disorder. This is due to a spontaneous mutation in the clotting factor genes.
Treatment for Haemophilia
While there is no cure for haemophilia, advancements in medical care have greatly improved the quality of life for individuals with this condition. Treatment typically involves the following:
1. Replacement Therapy: The primary treatment for haemophilia is replacement therapy, where the missing clotting factors (VIII or IX) are infused into the bloodstream. This helps the blood to clot more effectively and prevents bleeding episodes. These infusions can be done on-demand when a bleed occurs or as a preventive measure.
2. Clot-Promoting Medications: Desmopressin (DDAVP) is a medication that can stimulate the release of stored clotting factors in some individuals with mild haemophilia.
3. Gene Therapy: Emerging treatments involve gene therapy to correct the genetic mutations responsible for haemophilia. While this is still in the experimental phase, it holds promise for the future.
4. Physiotherapy: Physical therapy may be recommended to manage joint pain and prevent joint damage, as well as to maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength.
Haemophilia is a challenging condition that affects individuals from birth, impacting their ability to form blood clots and increasing the risk of bleeding episodes. While it remains an incurable genetic disorder, advancements in medical treatment have provided effective ways to manage and improve the lives of those with haemophilia. With ongoing research and medical innovations, the future holds promise for even better therapies and improved outcomes for individuals living with this condition.