Hemophilia and joint disease

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Learn about one of the major complications of hemophilia: joint disease.

The main aim of hemophilia management is to protect your joints and minimize damage from a bleed. Delaying your treatment and not taking care of your joints immediately after an injury puts you more at risk of damaging your joints.

Why does bleeding damage joints?

The place where two or more bones meet is called a joint. The joint is surrounded by a tough tissue called a joint capsule. When you damage your joint, it starts to bleed into the joint capsule. You can still have blood inside the joint capsule many weeks after an injury. The blood can put a lot of stress on the soft tissue that forms the inner lining of the joint capsule. This lining is called the synovium. As blood builds up inside the joint capsule, the synovium becomes more stressed, particularly if you do not rest the damaged joint long enough. You will feel more pain in the joint and have a hard time moving it around.

Remember, you need to rest your joint for at least two weeks after an injury. As your joint heals, you may need to take more factor or go on prophylaxis treatment for a few weeks. As you learned in module 3, prophylaxis is a type of treatment where you take factor on a regular basis to prevent bleeding. Once your joint is fully rested, you can slowly start to get back into your regular activities. It can be difficult to remember this piece of advice, especially when your joint may look or feel all right after only a few days! But moving it around will only put more pressure on the synovium, which is already strained from the blood inside the joint capsule. This can cause the damage to worsen, making it irreversible in the long run – leaving surgery as your only option.

Bleeds can cause joint disease

Bleeding into a joint can cause two types of joint disease: synovitis and arthritis. You will learn more about these conditions, and the methods doctors use to help diagnose and treat each complication. You will also learn why surgery is often the last option to treat a severely damaged joint and how your physiotherapist helps you keep your joints healthy, especially after an injury.

Last updated: March 13th 2019