It has been reported that, on average, 274 people are killed by blood clots every day in the US alone. There is a veritable laundry list of risk factors associated with blood clot formation. Some of them, like spending too much time sitting down, recent surgery, or obesity, are pretty obvious.
But one of the most subtle potential causes of blood clots is an autoimmune disorder known as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which can only be diagnosed by performing antiphospholipid syndrome tests.
To learn more about this potentially deadly condition—and the absolute best way to test for it—keep reading.
About Antiphospholipid Syndrome
Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which may also be referred to as Hughs syndrome, lupus anticoagulant disease, or anticardiolipin antibody (aCL) syndrome, is an autoimmune disease. This type of disease causes your body to go to war against itself.
When it's functioning as it should, your immune system identifies threats posed to your body from the outside (e.g., bacteria, viruses, foreign bodies). It then responds to them by releasing the appropriate countermeasure. This can range from triggering a fever to deploying specialized cells that physically destroy the threat.
This all goes catastrophically wrong when the immune system's means of identifying a threat—proteins known as antibodies—marks some of the body's own tissues for the attack. In the case of APS, the body creates antibodies that attack phospholipids, which are a type of fat that is found in all living cells.
Now, your blood cells are living cells, and so are the ones that make up the linings of your blood vessels. If your immune system is on the hunt for phospholipids, they are going to wreak havoc on your circulatory system. And any trauma to your circulatory system leads to the creation of blood clots.
But too much of a good thing is never a good thing.
An overabundance of blood clots can lead to, among other things, stroke, heart attack, deep vein thrombosis, and kidney failure. It can even lead to pregnant women who are suffering from the condition to experience premature births, miscarriages, eclampsia. In fact, one-fifth of women who suffer from recurring miscarriages have been found to have APS.
Although antiphospholipid syndrome affects both sexes, it is more common in females. And although the disorder occurs in patients of all ages, APS does more commonly affect females of child-bearing age.
Furthermore, APS is more likely to occur in those already suffering from other autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis. In fact, APS affects 10% of those suffering from lupus.
Other factors that aren't related to other autoimmune conditions, but still pose an increased risk, include smoking, prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, cancer, kidney disease, the use of birth control pills, and being treated with hormone therapy.
Signs or Symptoms
The presence of antiphospholipid antibodies in an individual doesn't necessarily mean that they'll show any signs of antiphospholipid syndrome. However, there are some sure signs that an antiphospholipid syndrome test should be taken, all of which are related to the complications that blood clots can cause.
- Shortness of breath
- Transient ischemic attacks (a sort of short-lived stroke)
- Deep vein thrombosis
- High blood pressure
- Angina (chest pain caused by decreased blood flow to the heart muscle)
- Heart attack
- Swelling, redness, and sensitivity in the limbs
- Persistent headaches
- Changes in speech
- Discomfort in the upper body (i.e., arms, back, neck, and jaw)
- Heart valve issues
- Loss of vision or other disturbances
- Diminished balance or mobility
- Difficulty concentrating
Lab Tests for APS
Antiphospholipid syndrome must be diagnosed accurately so that it can be treated effectively. This can also help rule out other potential causes of the above complications.
The substances most commonly tested for in the lab (via blood testing) when seeking a diagnosis of APS are:
Results should be consistent across at least two blood tests that are taken 12 or more weeks apart.
Other tests might be ordered for the evaluation of blood cells and clotting. These might include:
Other additional tests for evaluating other potential causes of symptoms, like a 1:1 Mix study (dilute PTT) for screening the blood for lupus anticoagulant.
Because the presence of the above autoantibodies in the blood doesn't necessarily lead to symptoms, a positive diagnosis can only be made by considering clinical indicators. These include the occurrence of abnormal clotting in any blood vessels, which must be verified by imaging (e.g., CT scan, MRI, ECG) or tissue biopsy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a cure for antiphospholipid syndrome?
Unfortunately, although research is ongoing, there is no cure for APS at present. However, medications are available that can help treat its symptoms and prevent further complications.
What kind of medication will I need to take to manage my APS?
Your doctor may prescribe you anticoagulant medications ("blood thinners") like heparin, warfarin, and/or aspirin. To ensure that these drugs don't decrease your blood's ability to clot so much that you develop potentially life-threatening conditions like internal bleeding, your doctor may want to perform other blood tests (like the PT test) regularly while you're on them.
If you're curious about having us at Ulta Lab Tests take care of your blood testing, here are some more quick answers about that.
Your Antiphospholipid Syndrome Tests
Getting blood work done for antiphospholipid syndrome tests can be costly, complicated, and time-consuming, but we at Ulta Lab Tests have endeavored to make the process as affordable and convenient as possible. All of our tests have been specially designed with accuracy and reliability in mind, allowing you to make the best-informed decision you can.
You can learn more about how it all works here.
You can easily take charge of your health by ordering your own APS antibody panel with us. Results will be provided to you online, securely, and confidentially within 24 to 48 hours. No insurance or referral is needed, and the doctor's order is included in the price.
And most importantly, Ulta Lab Tests offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee!