Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS)

Your doctor just told you that you have anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS). Even though he explained APS thoroughly, on the drive home you wonder: what did he really say? Well, breaking the diagnosis down into its component words helps make APS easier to understand. I think it’s easier to explain it if it’s broken down to it’s other name: antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

Start with the word, antibody. Antibodies are immune system proteins that fight off foreign invaders. In autoimmune disorders, these antibodies mistakenly see the body as foreign and attack it; they’re called autoantibodies: antibodies against ‘oneself.’ In APS, these autoantibodies attack phospholipid, a type of fat molecule, that makes up a large portion of cell walls, damaging cell walls and blood vessels. Antiphospholipid antibodies are no more than autoantibodies that target and attack phospholipids.

The two major antiphospholipid antibodies are the lupus anticoagulant antibody and anti-cardiolipin antibody.

About 50% of the people with these antibodies have lupus or another autoimmune disorders, but about 50% of the population without lupus can develop antiphospholipid syndrome.

What can these autoantibodies do, then? They can cause blood clots, which can then cause  osteonecrosis, gangrene, stroke, heart attack high-risk pregnancies; so this disorder is something not to be taken lightly.

How is it a APS treated? If someone has lupus anticoagulant antibody, but have never had a blood clot, reatment is usually with aspirin. However,  if there has been a blood clot, the main treatment is blood thinning, or anticoagulation; and that’s usually done with Coumadin or its generic equivalent, warfarin.


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