Summary. von Willebrand disease (vWD) is the most common congenital bleeding disorder in the USA, affecting 1–3% of the population. Previously characterizing the bleeding symptoms in females with type 1 vWD, we evaluated 42 males with type 1 vWD, mean age 16 years (1–64), of whom 24 (57%) presented with bleeding symptoms. The most common initial symptom was postoperative bleeding (26%). The most common bleeding symptoms ever were epistaxis (53%), bruising (50%), postoperative bleeding (47%), haematomas (29%) and oral bleeding (29%). Of postoperative bleeding, ear/nose/throat (44%), dental (17%) and circumcision bleeding (22%) occurred at a median 10 years of age, despite a previous bleeding or family history in 89%. Complications included anaemia in five (12%), neurological sequelae after subdural haematoma and tonsillectomy in two (5%), transfusion-associated hepatitis C in two (5%) and degenerative joint disease after traumatic haemarthroses in one (2%). The bleeding time (BT) was prolonged in 83%, and the ristocetin cofactor (vW:RCoF) and factor VIII (FVIII:C) decreased in 64% and 43%, respectively. Haemarthroses and haematoma formation were associated with a longer activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) (P < 0.05), and anaemia with a lower FVIII:C (P < 0.05). In 81%, a haemostatic response occurred with 1-8 deamino-d-arginine vasopressin (DDAVP), although, in 13%, surgical intervention was also required to achieve haemostasis. Postoperative bleeding could have been avoided in 89%, if a preoperative past bleeding history or family history had been obtained, and, in at least 94%, if a preoperative BT and APTT had also been performed. The failure to avoid postoperative bleeding and related complications in patients with vWD by taking a personal and family bleeding history constitutes a major public health problem.