A disorder that increases the risk that blood clots will form in the veins and arteries. Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS) affects many more women than men. Sometimes nicknamed “sticky blood syndrome” in the United Kingdom, it can appear on its own but is often associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or Lupus) and other autoimmune conditions. People with APS have high levels of antiphospholipid antibodies in their blood.
These antibodies—immune-system proteins—increase the tendency of blood to form into clots, which can lodge in the veins and arteries.
People with APS are at increased risk of a host of problems such as anemia, deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot that forms in a deep vein), heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, dementia, chronic headache, peripheral vascular disease, and pulmonary embolism (a life-threatening condition in which a blood clot travels to the lungs). In pregnant women, APS can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, and other pregnancy complications.
APS is diagnosed when an individual has a history of blood clots or of miscarriage and/or premature births and blood tests have shown the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies. The presence of the antibodies alone does not warrant a diagnosis of APS. Many people have antiphospholipid antibodies in their blood but do not have APS. As a side note, up to 40-50% of people with lupus, for example, test positive for the antibodies and may have both Lupus and APS
Treatment for APS is aimed at thinning the blood to reduce blood clotting. The standard treatments are anti-clotting drugs such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and heparin. As warfarin has been known to cause birth defects, doctors treat pregnant women with heparin. In addition, women with APS, especially those with a history of pregnancy complications, must be monitored very closely during pregnancy.
People with APS are also advised to stop smoking, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet to guard against other health conditions that add to the risk of developing blood clots, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Individuals who have already developed these conditions must get treatment to control them.
Adapted from Arthritis Self-Management July/August 2009
Founded in 2005, the APS Foundation of America, Inc. is the leading United States nonprofit health agency dedicated to bringing national awareness to Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS), the major cause of multiple miscarriages, thrombosis, young strokes and heart attacks. We are a volunteer run, community based 501(c)3 non-profit Public Charity organization and is dedicated to fostering and facilitating joint efforts in the areas of education, support, public awareness, research and patient services. Our URL is http://www.apsfa.org