Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Overview of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS) is a type of auto-immune disorder in which the body synthesizes antibodies that attack its own immune cells. In APS, excess blood clot formation occurs which is known as thrombosis. 

Antibodies or antiphospholipid antibodies, attack the infection-causing organisms that enter our body. However, in APS the same antibodies attack healthy cells in the body resulting in blood clot formation. Although, the mechanism through which blood clot formation occurs is not fully understood yet.

This blood can appear in any blood vessel across the body. Localization of blood clots determines the symptoms and severity of the disease.

Occurrence of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Statistically speaking, we don’t exactly know about the occurrence of APS. However, APS is responsible for 1% of all thromboses. Approximately, 45-50 individuals among 10000 are affected by APS. Disease incidence studies say that there are 5 reported APS in a population of 100000 individuals.

Signs and Symptoms of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

APS is usually characterized by the formation of blood that occurs in blood vessels. Clots are more likely to form in veins than arteries. Depending upon the severity of the disease clot formation can vary. The formation of clots is further associated with;

Other common symptoms of APS include:

  • Vision problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Speech difficulty
  • Mobility trouble
  • Fatigue/ lack of stamina
  • Memory problems
  • Balance problems 
  • Early pregnancy loss

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Types of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

We can classify APS into three different types:

  • Primary Antiphospholipid Syndrome: This refers to APS that occurs alone without involving any other medical condition.

  • Secondary Antiphospholipid Syndrome: This type of APS occurs along some existing medical conditions mostly with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). 

  • Catastrophic APS: This is a rare case of APS where multiple clots are formed at different locations in the body.

Causes of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

APS occurs when our body synthesizes antibodies that attack normal healthy cells in our body. We don’t exactly know what causes the formation of APS antibodies. Production of these antibodies, however, can involve many genetic and environmental factors.

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Risk Factors of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Some factors that increase your risk of suffering from APS include::

  • Family History: This autoimmune condition is known to be affected by your genetics. Genes for the production of APS antibodies don’t travel directly from parents to children. Though the presence of disease in your family can significantly increase your chances of suffering from APS. 
  • Medication: Intake of certain medications can increase your risk of suffering from APS. These medications include birth control pills.
  • Infections: Suffering from bacterial and viral infections can significantly increase your risk of suffering from APS.
  • Lifestyle Practices: If you already have abnormal production of APS antibodies, you are more likely to develop APS if you follow poor lifestyle practices. These include a sedentary lifestyle, consumption of unhealthy foods, smoking, etc.

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Prevention

Here are some of the ways that can help you to prevent the onset of APS. These include:

  • Healthy Eating: Consume a healthy well-balanced diet and try to keep a check on your fat consumption.
  • Physical Activity: You need to stay physically active to prevent the complications associated with APS.
  • Refrain from Smoking: Abstain from smoking to prevent the onset of APS.
  • Aspirin: The use of aspirin is considered an effective measure for the prevention of APS who have APS antibodies or suffer from conditions like SLE. 
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Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms of APS generally overlap with MS (multiple sclerosis). However, for proper diagnosis, several diagnostic procedures are carried out.  These include:

  • Physical Examination: This is the earliest stage of diagnosis in which your physician tries to relate your clinical signs and symptoms to the disease. During physical examination, your physician acquires detailed information about your medical and family history and then proceeds to further testing. 
  • Blood Tests: After knowing about your signs and symptoms, blood tests can confirm the disease. Among blood tests, antibody immunoassays reveal the level of APS antibodies in your blood. Immunoassays are performed for three types of APS antibodies including: 
  • Anticardiolipin antibodies
  • Anti-beta-2-glycoprotein antibodies
  • Lupus anticoagulant testing.

Treatment of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome | When to Consult a Doctor

APS has variable clinical signs and symptoms. People who have no signs and symptoms of the disease may not require any treatment for the disease. Presence of APS in the blood means that you can suffer from APS later in life. There is no cure for APS and all the treatment options are aimed to prevent blood clotting. Further, disease management can help women to have safer and more successful pregnancies. 

Medications to Treat Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Medicines used to treat APS are anticoagulants that prevent the formation of blood clots. Some of these anticoagulants including heparin and warfarin help to resolve the existing blood clots. These anticoagulants can be given as oral medicines or as sub-cutaneous injections. 

Important Note: Always consult your physician before taking any medication.  

Surgical Treatment

Among patients who suffer from interrupted blood supply as a result of heart valve damage, surgical procedures are recommended. 

In case you exhibit any concerning signs and symptoms of antiphospholipid syndrome, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

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