What is APS?

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APLS), Hughes syndrome or Sticky Blood is an autoimmune disease characterized by excessive clotting in the blood and/or certain complications of pregnancy. The body recognizes certain normal components of blood and/or cell membranes as foreign substances and produces antibodies (or proteins) against them, which in turn produces blood clots. There are two known forms of APS, one occurring in people with systemic lupus and other autoimmune diseases. And second in otherwise healthy individuals. Unfortunately, when many people hear about APS referred to as autoimmune disease, they incorrectly confuse the terms autoimmune with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); or think it is a form of cancer, which it is neither.

APS is associated with recurrent clotting events (thrombosis) including premature stroke, repeated miscarriages, unexplained fetal death, premature birth, phlebitis, venous thrombosis (clot in the vein) and pulmonary embolism (blockage of an artery found in the lung due to a clot that has traveled from a vein). It is also associated with abnormally low platelet counts. Recently, however, even more complications have been linked with APS including premature heart attack, migraine headaches, various cardiac vein abnormalities, skin lesions, abnormal involuntary movement disorders, diseases that mimic multiple sclerosis, purplish mottling discoloration of the skin, and vascular diseases of the eye that can lead to visual loss and blindness. In very rare cases, APS leads to catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS) which causes rapid organ failure due to generalized thrombosis and a high risk of death; and also a rare form of inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

It is important to know that antiphospholipid antibodies can also be found in the blood of individuals without any disease process. In fact, antiphospholipid antibodies have been reported in approximately 2% of the normal population (MedicineNet.com). Harmless antiphospholipid antibodies can be detected in the blood for a brief period occasionally in association with a wide variety of conditions, including bacterial, viral and parasite infections. Certain drugs can also cause antiphospholipid antibodies to be produced in the blood, including antibiotics and even cocaine. These types of circumstances do not necessarily mean an individual has the APS syndrome.

Trending research is finding that there are patients with slowly progressive memory problems. Cognitive dysfunction in some patients varies from dementia to subtle cognitive deficits in otherwise asymptomatic patients with APS. One of the most common complaints in these patients is of poor memory, difficulty in concentrating or difficulty in keeping their attention for a long time, indicating probable neurological involvement. Current research is also exploring a form of atypical multiple sclerosis in patients who have antiphospholipid antibodies present in their blood.

Find out more, including my own APS Story HERE.