Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (also APS, phospholipid antibody syndrome, or Hughes syndrome) is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body’s immune system produces antibodies which attack the normal healthy cells. These antibodies called antiphospholipids, can cause blood clots (usually in leg veins, brain), pregnancy complications, loss of consciousness, stroke, or heart attack. Other signs of this illness may include: rashes, migraines, heart problems, and bleeding.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome – two basic types
There are two types of the syndrome: primary (if there are no other autoimmune diseases present) and secondary (if another autoimmune disease is present, such as lupus for example). When the disease is secondary, the cause is always the primary autoimmune disorder.
If the APS is primary, the cause is not always known. It is suspected to be a combination of: genetics (having a relative with antiphospholipid antibodies), infections (syphilis or hepatitis C), and medications (such as hydralazine for high blood pressure) that may trigger the disease.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome – conventional treatment approaches
The main goal of the treatment for the condition is to prevent clotting by thinning the blood. Treatments used for this are:
- Anticoagulants, such as heparin, warfarin, and even aspirin are used as blood thinners
- Corticosteroids (mainly prednisone) are used to suppress the overactive immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Intravenous gamma globulin treatment may be prescribed during pregnancy, but it has the same efficacy levels as aspirin and heparin.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome – rare complications
Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome is rare complication of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, in which many blood vessels are affected, as well as many organs (brain, heart, skin, lungs etc.). The treatment involves blood thinners, corticosteroids and plasma exchange therapy.
Other more common complications
- Stroke – due to the reduced blood flow to the brain.
- Kidney failure – because of the decreased blood flow to the kidneys.
- Pregnancy complications – miscarriages, fetal death, premature birth; or high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Lung problems – pulmonary embolism or high blood pressure in the lungs.
- Cardiovascular damage – due to the blood clots in the whole body, which may cause damage to the leg veins and as a result of blood not being able to reach the heart, different heart problems, including a heart attack.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies can be detected with certain blood tests, which are usually repeated to complete the diagnosis. These antibodies can also be found in people who don’t develop antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, most likely caused by some infectious diseases (bacterial, viral or by a parasite), or certain drugs (antibiotics, cocaine, etc.).
This condition is now pinpointed as one of the main potential culprits of a number of autoimmune diseases, but some recent advances in the field of autoimmune disease research offer new found hope to people afflicted by this life-altering condition.
You can learn more by visiting the home page of the protocol as well as get a more detailed image about the antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.