The Risks of Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a group of potentially life-threatening blood disorders that may cause patients to bleed excessively due to a lack of clotting. Uncontrollable bleeding caused by hemophilia can be life-threatening, especially when it occurs internally within the organs and joints.

Most people with hemophilia can lead healthy, active lives while exercising caution and undergoing comprehensive medical treatment. Primarily, this condition affects males and those with a family history of bleeding disorders. Below is an overview of hemophilia risk factors.

Family History

A family history of bleeding disorders certainly contributes to the incidence of hemophilia, although the Mayo Clinic reports that up to 30% of those with hemophilia have no family history of the disorder.

Sexual Determinants

There are three main types of hemophilia, and the two most commonly occurring are genetically inherited. The abnormal clotting genes responsible for causing hemophilia A and hemophilia B are handed down on the X sex chromosome through the female. Because males only receive one X chromosome, they are at greater risk of inheriting hemophilia if their mother carries the gene.

It is rare for females to exhibit symptoms of hemophilia because they inherit two X chromosomes: one from their mother and one from their father. If they receive a hemophilia gene on the X chromosome from their mother, they have what could be considered a “backup”—a healthy X chromosome from their father, which can override the condition.  In this case, however, the female still inherits the abnormal gene and can pass it on to her children. Each female hemophilia carrier has a 50% chance of having a daughter who carries the hemophilia gene and a 50% chance of having a son who has hemophilia. (If the X chromosome from the mother contains the faulty clotting gene, the son will have hemophilia.)

Hemophilia C, which is not as common since both parents must be carriers, is not linked with sex chromosomes and affects both males and females equally.

Racial and Ethnicity Determinants

Hemophilia affects all races and people from all ethnic groups alike. Although not exclusive to the population, hemophilia C does have a remarkable occurrence among Ashkenazi Jewish descendants. According to the National Hemophilia Foundation, this occurrence is likely due to intermarriage.

Age Determinants

Hemophilia is a lifelong disease that has no cure. Because it is inherited, the genes are present at birth. In situations when a family history of bleeding disorders warrants prenatal testing, it can be determined whether a child will have the disorder prior to birth. In mild cases, symptoms may not exhibit until an individual encounters a major trauma, such as a surgery in which excessive bleeding would ensue. There is a possibility then, that diagnosis may be delayed until adulthood. Hemophilia is, however, commonly diagnosed by nine months of age, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Posted on May 5, 2023