Hemophilia (cont.)

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How is hemophilia diagnosed?

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The majority of patients with hemophilia have a known family history of the condition. However, about one-third of cases occur in the absence of a known family history. Most of these cases without a family history arise due to a spontaneous mutation in the affected gene. Other cases may be due to the affected gene being passed through a long line of female carriers.

If there is no known family history of hemophilia, a series of blood tests can identify which part or protein factor of the blood clotting mechanism is defective if an individual has abnormal bleeding episodes.

The platelet (a blood particle essential for the clotting process) count should be measured as well as two indices of blood clotting, the prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT). A normal platelet count, normal PT, and a prolonged aPTT are characteristic of hemophilia A and hemophilia B. Specific tests for the blood clotting factors can then be performed to measure factor VII or factor IX levels and confirm the diagnosis.

Genetic testing to identify and characterize the specific mutations responsible for hemophilia is also available in specialized laboratories.

Is it possible to know if you are a carrier of hemophilia?

Since men with the genetic mutation will have hemophilia, a man who does not have the condition cannot be a carrier of the disease. A woman who has a son with known hemophilia is termed an obligate carrier, and no testing is needed to establish that she is a carrier of hemophilia.

Women whose carrier status is unknown can be evaluated either by testing for the clotting factors or by methods to characterize the mutation in the DNA. The DNA screening methods are generally the most reliable.

Prenatal diagnosis is also possible with DNA-based tests performed on a sample obtained through amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. Most individuals are seen and tested by consultants who specialize in genetically linked diseases.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2014

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