von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a genetic blood disorder. It decreases the amount or the effectiveness of von Willebrand factor. This factor is a sticky protein. It helps to create a plug at the site of an injury to stop bleeding. Low levels or ineffective von Willebrand factor can cause bleeding problems.

There are three major types of vWD:

  • Type 1—most mild and most common form
  • Type 2
  • Type 3—most serious form and very rare
Genetic Material
Chromosome_DNA
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

vWD is caused by a genetic defect. The specific defect varies by the type of vWD, for example:

  • Type 1—results in low levels of von Willebrand factor
  • Type 2—results in von Willebrand factor that does not work well
  • Type 3—results in no von Willebrand factor

This genetic defect is most often inherited from the parent. A child can develop type 1 or type 2 vWD if just one parent has the defect. For type 3, both parents must have the defective gene. Some people may have the gene for vWD without having symptoms. They can still pass this gene to their offspring.

vWD can also develop from other medical conditions or medications. This is called acquired von Willebrand syndrome.