Antiphospholipid syndrome, also known as Hughes syndrome is a disease of the immune system. This disease causes an increase in the risk of developing blood clots. It causes a hypercoagulable state, that is induced by the antiphospholipid antibodies. This disease triggers the development of clots in the blood vessels, such as the arteries, veins, as well as in complications related to pregnancy, such as stillbirth, miscarriage, preeclampsia and so on. The development of blood clots in organs, such as the brain can lead to severe conditions such as impairment in speech, vision, balance, memory and so on. This disease doesn’t always present with symptoms. However, the signs and symptoms are similar to those of multiple sclerosis. Antiphospholipid syndrome can be treated with anticoagulant medications, like heparin. This is given to reduce the risk of developing thrombosis, and to improve the prognosis of pregnancy. However, it’s important to know that warfarin cannot be used during pregnancy because it can easily cross the placenta. In addition, warfarin is teratogenic. Stem cells are effective in the treatment of this disease. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells in the body that can develop into other types of body cells. The stem cells are extracted from the patient’s body; then he’s made to undergo chemotherapy, which essentially destroys the patient’s immune system.

What Causes Antiphospholipid Syndrome?

Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune disease. This implies that the immune system, whose function is to protect the body, and attack foreign materials, such as bacteria, produces antibodies, also known as antiphospholipid antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to fat molecules, which makes the blood clot easily. The exact reason why the immune system would produce abnormal antibodies isn’t known yet. However, it’s suggested that environmental and genetics are important factors in the development of this disease. Medications can also cause the development of this disease, and there also cases, where the disease just happens, without any apparent cause.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Antiphospholipid Syndrome?

Antiphospholipid syndrome is autoimmune and hypercoagulable state disease, so the symptoms of this disease centres around this mechanism. Below are some of the symptoms;

  • Deep vein thrombosis: This is a condition in which blood clots lodges in the veins of the legs. This blood clot forms as a result of the disease, which makes the blood hypercoagulable. These clots can also travel to other parts of the body, such as in the lungs, to form pulmonary embolism.
  • Stroke: Stroke occurs as a result of the impaired flow of oxygen to parts of the brain. The brain cannot survive for long without the supply of oxygen. Blood clots can block some of the vessels in the brain, leading to stroke.
  • Cerebrovascular disease: Just as mentioned above, antiphospholipid syndrome increases the chances of developing cerebrovascular diseases. Antiphospholipid syndrome makes cerebrovascular disease in young people.
  • Skin rash: This condition is also known as livedo reticularis. It’s a skin condition that occurs as a result of the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels of the skin. This gives the skin an abnormal Patients might present with a blue appearance. Some patients might also present with ulcers and nodules on their skin,
  • Neurological presentations: Patients affected by this disease might present with neurological symptoms such as seizures, dementia and so on. This occurs due to the blockage of the vessels in the brain.
  • Cardiovascular system: Antiphospholipid syndrome also affects the cardiovascular system. Although this is not very common, the antibodies can damage the valves of the heart, which can subsequently lead to other cardiovascular complications.
  • Miscarriages: Women affected by antiphospholipid syndrome have a high tendency of presenting with complications during pregnancy. This can lead to severe complications if not well managed. Some of the complications associated with antiphospholipid syndrome during pregnancy include premature delivery, pre-eclampsia and so on.
  • Blood loss: Due to the hypercoagulable state of the blood, due to antiphospholipid syndrome. Patients do have a reduction in their platelet count. This might lead to conditions such as bleeding. Other symptoms associated with this disease include petechiae, epistaxis and so on.

Who Does Antiphospholipid Syndrome Affect?

Antiphospholipid syndrome occurs more in people between the ages of 20 and 50. However, it’s important to know that it can affect anyone, regardless of the age, and gender. In addition, studies have shown that the disease is more prevalent in women than in men.

What Are the Risk Factors For Hughes Syndrome?

There is a possibility to have phospholipid antibodies and not present with any symptoms. However, the presence of this risk factors could increase the chances of the formation of blood clot in the vessels. Below are some of the risk factors of the antiphospholipid syndrome;

  • Autoimmune diseases: Having diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus increases the risk of developing the antiphospholipid
  • Infections: Infections such as hepatitis, syphilis increases the risk of developing the disease.

Antiphospholipid Syndrome and Pregnancy

Women affected by antiphospholipid syndrome have a high tendency of presenting with complications during pregnancy. This can lead to severe complications if not well managed. Some of the conditions that could occur as a result of this disease during pregnancy include the following;

  1. Pregnant women affected by antiphospholipid syndrome might experience miscarriages, especially in their first trimester. These miscarriages might occur multiple times until the disease is treated.
  2. Pregnant women affected by antiphospholipid syndrome might also have a premature This tends to occur before the 34th week of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is associated with the antiphospholipid syndrome, and it’s responsible for the premature birth.

 

How Is The Disease Diagnosed?

The disease can be tricky to diagnose. However, physicians often carry out blood tests on the patient, to identify the antibodies that cause the antiphospholipid syndrome.

How Is Antiphospholipid Syndrome Treated?

Antiphospholipid syndrome is treated by reducing the abnormal rate of clotting in the blood, and to protect the patients from the complications of the syndrome. Blood thinners are usually administered for reducing clotting. Examples are heparin, warfarin, and aspirin. Pregnant women affected by antiphospholipid syndrome are usually given injections of blood thinners and aspirin throughout the period of their pregnancy. Treatment is also continued after they’ve delivered the baby. It’s important also to eliminate and treat any condition that might increase the risk of developing the antiphospholipid syndrome. Some of these factors include hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, diabetes mellitus and so. Unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, lack of exercise also needs to be changed.

 References

Cuadrado, M. (1998). Antiphospholipid, anti-beta 2-glycoprotein-I and anti-oxidized-low- density-lipoprotein antibodies in antiphospholipid syndrome. QJM, 91(9), pp.619-626.

Marmont, A. and Burt, R. (2008). Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for systemic lupus erythematosus, the antiphospholipid syndrome and bullous skin diseases. Autoimmunity, 41(8), pp.639-647.

Statkute, L. (2005). Antiphospholipid syndrome in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus treated by autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Blood, 106(8), pp.