Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome is one of those tongue twister disorders. One that you would probably not ever hear about unless you have it or know someone who does. It's also referred to as APS, APLS, or APLA. Those abbreviations are a whole lot easier to say, don't you think? I do - maybe I'll just stick with them.
This condition is also sometimes referred to as Hughes syndrome. This is because of Dr. Graham Hughes, the rheumatologist, who works at the Louise Coote Lupus Unit as Saint Thomas' Hospital in London. (To read more about Dr. Hughes and the work he does, click here – opens a new window).
APS is basically an autoimmune condition which produces antibodies that fight against phospholipid or aPL, which is a normal cell membrane substance. It sees them as foreign substances. The syndrome can cause blood clots in the arteries and veins. These can lead to heart attacks and strokes as well as complications during pregnancy.
Many times antiphospholipid antibody syndrome happens in people who already have other autoimmune diseases like lupus. In these cases it is referred to as secondary antiphospholipid syndrome. It can also develop in healthy people when no other condition is present. In those cases, it's called primary antiphospholipid syndrome.
Another term sometimes used to describe APS is “Sticky Blood”. Kay Thackray wrote a book - Sticky Blood Explained - in which she talks about her personal experience with APS. Reading her book, as well as the following one, will help you learn more about this condition. Dr. Hughes also wrote a book - Understanding Hughes Syndrome: Case Studies for Patients - It includes 50 case studies that will help you figure out whether or not you have it.
You can also read through Dr. Hughes Blog (opens a new window) which he updates regularly with new cases. Another very helpful website is APS Foundation of America (also opens a new window). If you're interested, they are good places to start.
APS is commonly misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. That is why a neurologist or rheumatologist can help you determine if you have either of these or some other autoimmune disease. If you aren't satisfied with the answers you get, seek a second opinion. Be proactive until you are satisfied.
Unfortunately, when you have developed one autoimmune disease, you may be more susceptible to developing another one. And often times one person may have several.