Antiphospholipid Syndrome

This is a rare immune system (body’s defense) disease that may provoke blood clots in the blood vessels. As a result, you may experience certain health conditions including miscarriage, stroke, myocardial infarction, and others. This condition is known as Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS).

In normal circumstances, the body’s defense produces certain proteins (antibodies) that help to protect the body from different invaders (such as viruses). However, with this condition, the immune system attacks its own fat molecules, which leads to cell damage and an increased risk of blood clots in the veins and arteries. Moreover, clotting of the blood can happen anywhere in the body from the brain to the legs.

Experts do not understand completely why this condition happens. Furthermore, women and people assigned to female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to develop this immune system condition.

Risk Factors and Causes

While healthcare providers do not know the exact cause of APS, they think both genes and environmental factors are involved. In addition, approximately 1%-5% of the U.S. population have in the blood these abnormal antibodies that can provoke APS. However, they do not have any symptoms of the condition.

Healthcare providers often diagnose this immune system disorder when antibodies and APS symptoms are present.

Check below some APS risk factors:

  • Women and AFAB (about 70% of APS diagnosed cases are females)
  • Viral or bacterial infection (including syphilis, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, HIV infection, and others)
  • Regular antibiotic use (including Amoxicillin)
  • Blood pressure, heart rhythm, and anti-seizure medicines also can increase your risk of APS
  • Lupus

In most cases, people begin to experience APS symptoms in the following cases. Examples include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Sitting for long periods
  • Smoking
  • Birth control pills
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol in the blood

APS and Pregnancy

Females are 5 times more likely to experience APS than males. Most women diagnosed with this condition are in their 30s. This is one factor that leads to pregnancy complications. However, women have an increased risk of blood clots even without this immune system disease. The blood vessels are narrow because of extra strain on them caused by the blood flow that supplies the fetus. Check below some complications that can occur in women with APS:

  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • High blood pressure (preeclampsia)
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Born babies can be small or underweight

In any case, APS treatment can reduce the risk of previous complications.

In addition, some experts think that miscarriages are provoked by blood clots that occur in the placenta. This is an organ that delivers to the fetus nutrients and oxygen.


The primary APS symptom is blood clots but people may experience other symptoms. Examples include:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Redness, swelling, and pain in the arms or legs
  • Speech changes
  • A feeling of discomfort in the arms, jaws, back, and neck
  • Repeated miscarriages
  • Frequent headaches
  • Memory problems
  • Anemia
  • Rash
  • Bleeding

In case you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any other blood clot symptom, immediately get medical help.


This condition can cause certain complications, especially if you are not treating it. For example:

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – It occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg.
  • Pulmonary Embolism – A lung condition in which a blood clot is forming in one of the arteries.
  • Myocardial Infarction – In case a blood clot is blocking the arteries along with oxygen and nutrients that blood carries to the heart.
  • Stroke – A health condition in which blood clots occur in the brain’s blood vessels. The common symptoms of this condition include speech loss and paralysis.
  • Kidney Damage – Blood clots decrease blood flow to the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure.

Additionally, a serious life-threatening complication is a catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome. It happens when blood clots begin to form throughout the body. As a result, damage to different organs occurs in a short period.


Healthcare providers usually diagnose this condition by performing blood tests. These tests help to determine 3 APS antibodies (such as anticardiolipin, beta-2 glycoprotein I, and lupus anticoagulant). To confirm the diagnosis, you should make blood tests twice at least 3 months apart.

Additionally, in case you have antibodies in the blood, it does not mean you have APS.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition but treatment can help you to prevent or avoid complications. Physicians usually prescribe a combination of medicines to interrupt the formation of new blood clots. The medications are known as anticoagulants (blood thinning medications). Many people can use a combination of a slow-acting blood thinner and a fast heparin shot to relieve the symptoms. A low dose of Aspirin is also a blood thinner.

In addition, APS treatments help to prevent miscarriages and other complications that can occur during pregnancy. Physicians usually prescribe injections of heparin and low doses of aspirin roughly before delivery because warfarin cannot be used during pregnancy. Furthermore, if you have repeated miscarriages, doctors may prescribe the following treatments. For example:

  • Enoxaparin (anticoagulant)
  • Corticosteroids (medicines used to suppress the body’s defense)
  • Immunoglobulin

Living with APS

Warfarin is a medicine prescribed by doctors in the APS treatment and it can interact with other medicines and over-the-counter drugs. In addition, anticoagulant medications can provoke excessive bleeding. In case you experience the following symptoms, it is advised to contact your healthcare professional immediately. For example:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Heavy periods
  • Bloody poop
  • Gums bleeding
  • Sudden vision problems
  • Severe abdominal or head pain
  • Difficulty moving legs or arms

Another important thing is to treat other health conditions that could lead to blood clots. These include diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, autoimmune conditions, and others.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary APS cause?

This immune system disorder is usually provoked by antibodies that lead to blood clots. However, in normal circumstances, antibodies help to protect the body from multiple invaders including viruses, bacteria, and others.

What are phospholipid antibodies?

There are 3 antiphospholipid antibodies. For example:

  • Lupus anticoagulants
  • Anti-beta-2-glycoprotein-I antibodies IgG or IgM
  • Anticardiolipin antibodies

What is the life expectancy in people with APS?

With early diagnosis and treatment, many people live a normal life. Approximately 1% of people with APS develop catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS). In addition, about 50% of people with CAPS die. In case you have any other questions, ask your healthcare professional.

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