HHT is a hereditary disorder. This means it is passed down through generations. HHT is characterized by abnormal blood vessels. The abnormal vessels can be small (telangiectasias) or large (arteriovenous malformations, AVMs). HHT occurs in approximately 1 in 5000 Canadians.
The telangiectasias most commonly occur on the skin of the face and hands and the lining of the nose and mouth. The telangiectasias on the lining of the nose cause recurrent nosebleeds, the most common symptom of HHT. Telangiectasias can also occur in the digestive tract, particularly in the stomach and small bowel. There are a number of different treatments available for bleeding from telangiectasias in the nose and digestive tract.
Some people with HHT will also have AVMs in one or more organs. AVMs occuring in the lungs and brain and can lead to serious complications. Everyone with HHT should undergo screening for lung and brain AVMs because if these are detected, they can be treated.
The Toronto HHT Centre and the HHT Foundation International recommend that all patients and families with HHT be assessed at a specialized HHT centre for screening and treatment.
More detailed information about HHT can be obtained through the HHT Foundation International at the following link: www.hht.org