Actress and mom-to-be Nadine Samonte recently revealed that she had Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS or APAS), which can cause pregnancy complications like miscarriage or stillbirth. APAS can be pretty scary. But what exactly is it?
What is APAS?
APAS is an autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system makes abnormal antibodies that attack and damage tissues or cells. Antibodies help defend the body against infection, but in the case of APS, the antibodies attack the body.
As an autoimmune disorder, APAS occurs when the body makes antibodies that mistakenly attack phospholipids, a type of fat that’s found in the blood. This then causes blood clots to form in veins and arteries, which can lead to numerous problems and complications. APAS affects three to five times as many women as men.
A person can be genetically predisposed to develop APAS. Some medications also increase your likely of developing it like the high blood pressure medication hydralazine and the antibiotic amoxicillin. It can also develop when you have certain infections including HIV, hepatitis C and syphilis.
It’s also possible that you have the abnormal antibodies, but not APAS itself. You are only diagnosed with APAS if you have both the abnormal antibodies and its symptoms. That being said, if you already have the abnormal antibodies you have an increased risk of developing APAS and blood clots if you:
- Become pregnant
- Remain immobile for a long time
- Undergo surgery
- Take birth control pills
- Have high cholesterol
APAS symptoms and complications
Symptoms and complications arise from the blood clots that APS form. It’s also a syndrome that doesn’t just affect pregnant women.
Blood clots can travel to many areas in the body, which can restrict the flow of blood, cause damage to the organs and even lead to death. The severity of the complication depends on the where the blood clot is and its size. Common dangerous complications include stroke, heart damage, kidney damage and lung problems. Less severe symptoms of APAS include skin conditions caused by blood clots that develop inside the skin and swelling of limbs, usually the legs.
As mentioned, APAS can be especially problematic for pregnant women. APAS raises the risk for miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery and preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). When preeclampsia progresses, it leads to eclempsia which is a serious condition that causes seizures in pregnant women.
Early detection, on the other hand, can greatly increase the chances of avoiding these. “With treatment, it's estimated there's about an 80% chance of having a successful pregnancy,” says the UK National Health Service.
Treatment for APAS
There is no cure for APAS. The body will continue to make the abnormal antibodies, but medication can help prevent blood clots and the complications that can come with it. Pregnant actress Nadine told press that she’s taking Heparin shots to manage her condition. Some moms-to-be are also prescribed aspirin. Treatment for pregnant women with APAS is most effective with early diagnosis. You need to consult with a doctor if you've experienced miscarriages or unexplained pregnancy complications before trying to get pregnant again.
Sources: UK NHS, Mayo Clinic, US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute