Our health care team can help you decide which is the best treatment option for you. We rely on your input to help develop a plan of care that will keep you healthy, active and able to live successfully with the challenges of hemophilia.
The present goal of hemophilia therapy is to raise factor levels, decrease the frequency and severity of bleeding episodes and prevent complications of bleeding. Hemophilia treatment uses clotting factor concentrate, also called "factor," which is a dried powder form of the clotting factor. It is mixed with water to form a liquid before it is given.
Some clotting factor products, called plasma-derived factor products, are made from donated human blood plasma. Others, called recombinant factor products, are made in a laboratory.
Clotting factor concentrate is injected into your vein soon after you have had an injury or show signs of bleeding. When clotting factor is given, it immediately circulates in the blood so the body can use it to form a blood clot. Once the blood clot is established and the bleeding has stopped, the body begins to reabsorb the blood that has leaked into the tissues and joints.
If you do not receive prompt treatment, extra blood can pool in the joint or soft tissue and cause pain and swelling that takes longer to go away. Over time, repeated bleeding into a joint can lead to severe joint damage and arthritis. Early treatment will minimize the risk of joint damage.
If you have mild hemophilia, you may only need to be treated episodically, that is, each time you experience a bleeding episode. If your hemophilia is moderate or severe, your hemophilia may require more frequent treatment.
All factor treatments are infused or injected intravenously into a vein. At first, you will be treated at a hemophilia treatment center, your doctor's office or an emergency room. Later, you may be taught how to administer the factor at home.
Whether or not you are on home treatment, you should always have factor concentrate at home, since you may need to take it to the emergency room when you need a treatment. If the decision is made to infuse factor to treat your bleeding episode, the most important thing you can do is to administer it as soon as possible.
After you receive factor treatment for a joint bleed, rest, ice, compression and elevation (or "RICE") are required. You may also benefit from support devices, such as crutches following a bleed into the knee or ankle, or a sling following a bleed into a muscle or joint in the arm. Depending on the site of the bleed, you may have to limit activities for a few days after a bleed.
Acetaminophen is recommended as a safe pain reliever for people with hemophilia. Follow the directions carefully and be sure to take only the recommended amount of the medicine.
Never take any product with aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, in it. Aspirin can interfere with clotting. Many common household remedies, such as Alka-Seltzer, contain aspirin, so read labels very carefully before you take any medication.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin, also may interfere with clotting; these should be used only if you have discussed their side effects with your doctor.
If you have any questions about what is or is not safe for you to take, talk to your doctor or hemophilia medical staff.
Research into such treatments as gene therapy and longer acting clotting factor concentrate is ongoing. The UCSF Hemophilia Treatment Center routinely participates in clinical trials involving new therapies.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.