Antiphospholipid Syndrome

What is Antiphospholipid Syndrome?

Antiphospholipid syndrome is a type of blood and immune system disorder. When a person suffers from this condition, their immune system mistakenly attacks certain proteins contained in the blood. What this means is that the immune system, for some reason, perceives the normal proteins in the blood as being foreign bodies or dangerous, and attacks them as such.

If a person has Antiphospholipid syndrome, their immune system produces antibodies that are specifically designed to seek out and destroy those proteins. The blood proteins that the immune system attacks in this condition are involved in blood coagulation (clotting).

There are different types of antiphospholipid syndrome and in general the syndrome is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary antiphospholipid syndrome has an unknown cause and seems to occur independently from other infections or disorders. Secondary antiphospholipid syndrome occurs as a result of another autoimmune disorder (like HIV) or as a reaction to certain medications or other health disorders.

What are the Symptoms of Antiphospholipid Syndrome?

Blood clots

The most common symptom of antiphospholipid syndrome is blood clots. These most commonly occur in the arms or legs and can be deep vein thrombosis or peripheral arterial thrombosis (two different types of blood clots. Some of these clots could potentially travel to the lungs causingĀ  potentially deadly pulmonary embolism. For women, a sign of antiphospholipid syndrome could be repeated problems carrying a pregnancy to term (i.e. stillbirths or miscarriages). Suffering from a stroke or several strokes could also be a sign of the condition.

Other symptoms include

Some people experience other types of symptoms with this syndrome including migraines, seizures, heart problems, nosebleeds, skin rash, and even sudden hearing loss or trouble moving.

Antiphospholipid Syndrome Causes

Antiphospholipid Syndrome is a condition in which the body develops antibodies that attack phospholipids in the bloodstream. Phospholipids are a type of fat that is essential for proper blood clotting. The antibodies attacking these phospholipids cause irregular clotting in the blood, which can lead to other symptoms and complications. It’s possible that the body can produce these bad antibodies without them actually attacking phospholipids, in which case symptoms are not always present. Coupled with the production of these antibodies, and another underlying condition, this can lead to the development of Antiphospholipid Syndrome.

Women are more likely to get Antiphospholipid Syndrome than men. Other factors that can contribute to Antiphospholipid Syndrome include autoimmune conditions, syphilis, HIV, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, and being related to someone who also has Antiphospholipid Syndrome, as it can be hereditary.

If your body already produces the antibodies that lead to Antiphospholipid Syndrome, but you have not developed symptoms, you may not have developed the syndrome. Some factors that may lead to the development of the syndrome include immobility (such as when you are on a flight for a long time without walking around), pregnancy, surgery, smoking, oral contraceptive, and high cholesterol.

How is Antiphospholipid Syndrome Treated?

Antiphospholipid syndrome is most commonly treated through the use of anticoagulant medications (i.e. blood thinners). If a person is suffering from thrombosis, the focus is first on breaking up those blood clots and ensuring that they do not travel to the lungs.

Maintenance therapy and management to prevent future blood clots has to do with eating a heart healthy diet and possibly continuing anticoagulant usage.

Antiphospholipid Syndrome Prevention

Prevention of Antiphospholipid Syndrome depends greatly on the cause. Avoiding risk to conditions that can lead to it, such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C, and Lyme disease, can lower your chances of developing the condition. Avoiding risk factors that trigger the syndrome, such as smoking, immobility, and high cholesterol, is also important. If you know you likely have Antiphospholipid Syndrome, taking aspirin or other medications that lower risk of blood clots can sometimes help prevent complications from it. It’s best to speak to your doctor about your risk and steps to take if you develop symptoms of Antiphospholipid Syndrome.

Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
November 08, 2017