Gender bias in diagnosis, treatment of bleeding disorders
In this era of women empowerment, it is hard to imagine that there are still those struggling for recognition. Yet, this is true in the hemophilia community.
For decades, doctors and medical practitioners held on to the belief that only males could be affected by hemophilia. This is because hemophilia is generally perceived as a sex-linked disorder. Since males only have one X chromosome while females have two, the defective gene is guaranteed to manifest in any male who carries it. And because females have two X chromosomes, the probability of having two defective genes is very remote (plus the fact that hemophilia is rare).
Hemophilia is generally referred to as a group of bleeding disorders where patients lack the ability to clot.
Normally, our blood produces proteins called factors that enable it to clot. People with bleeding disorders either have defective factors or none at all, making them bleed more than others.
Most women carriers of hemophilia are asymptomatic or do not exhibit any symptoms of the bleeding disorder unlike their male counterparts. But there are actually more types of bleeding disorders that are autosomal or non-sex related.
Imagine when women have bleeding disorder. Monthly periods can turn into monthly nightmares. Even the Bible recorded a woman who bled for 12 years.
According to Dr. Michael Tarantino, a doctor of a Red Cross clinic in California, understanding of bleeding disorders in women has not progressed far enough.
“Women and girls with bleeding disorders often get written off because they’re not boys,” Tarantino was quoted in an article on PJStar.Com. “So it takes longer to get a diagnosis in girls. They’re usually adults by the time they’re diagnosed.”
Even the terminology “hemophilia” to refer to bleeding disorders in general is subject to debates in the hemophilia community. Some say hemophilia only refers to deficiencies in coagulant Factor VIII (Hemophilia A), Factor IX (Hemophilia B) and Factor XI deficient (Hemophilia C). Others insist that other coagulant factor deficiencies (Factors I, II, III, IV, V, VII and vWD) should also be called hemophilia.
It may take a while for the terminology issue to be put to rest. But what is clear is that — yes, women can also have bleeding disorders.
About the author: Andrea H. Trinidad-Echavez is an Ambassador of My Girls Blood, a social network of women with bleeding disorders. For more information on women with bleeding disorders, check out www.mygirlsblood.org.