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Antiphospholipid Antibodies (Hughes Syndrome)


Antiphospholipid syndrome is also known as Hughes' Syndrome (named after the doctor who discovered it - Dr Graham Hughes).

Patients with antiphospholipid antibodies & certain symptoms are usually diagnosed with Antiphospholipid Syndrome. These patients have an increased risk of thrombosis (clotting) in veins & arteries. It can be present in lupus patients & also non-lupus patients.

The main symptoms of the syndrome are-

  • Vein Thrombosis (leg, arm or internal organ)

  • Artery Thrombosis -
      Brain - headaches, neurological features
      Limb - pain and circulation problems  
      Heart - chest pain  
      Other organs - lungs, kidneys

  • Recurrent abortion or miscarriage (usually in the 2nd or 3rd trimester.

  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)

  • Livedo reticularis (lacy, mottled pattern on skin)

  • Migraine

  • Epilepsy

  • Memory loss

  • Chorea (abnormal motor skills)

  • Stoke


Testing for the antiphospholipid antibody

The anticardiolipin (ACA) test measures the actual antibody levels. The three classes of anticardiolipin that are usually tested for are - IgG, IgM & Iga.

Another test, the lupus anticoagulant is a more complicated test & is far less reliable.



The drugs commonly used to treat it are aspirin, Warfarin & Heparin, which help to thin the blood. Aspirin is often given in small doses (75mgs-100mgs daily), this makes the platelets less sticky, which helps to prevent a thrombosis.

Warfarin is usually given to patients who have a larger thrombosis. Warfarin cannot be given to patients who are pregnant, so Heparin is normally used in these cases.

In some patients, anticoagulant therapy is life-long.




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