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What is Hughes Syndrome?

By H. Lo
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hughes syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, is also known as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) or sticky blood syndrome. It is a medical condition in which the immune system produces antibodies that attack certain healthy blood proteins. Normally, this would not happen, as antibodies serve to protect the body by attacking bacteria and viruses. An individual with Hughes syndrome might experience a variety of symptoms, most notably blood clots.

Blood usually clots in an effort to stop an individual from losing too much blood, but sometimes when these blood clots form, they can cause life-threatening situations. An individual with Hughes syndrome might suffer blood clots in the arteries and veins, interrupting the body’s flow of blood. For example, a clot in the leg, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a common symptom of the disorder. This blood clot can move up the vein and into the lungs, blocking an artery and causing a medical condition known as pulmonary embolism.

Other symptoms of the disorder that might come about as result of a blood clot are a stroke or a miscarriage. A stroke happens when an individual has a blood clot in the brain. Pregnant women with Hughes syndrome might have a miscarriage due to a blood clot in the placenta. Besides blood clots, there are other symptoms that an individual with the disorder might exhibit, including chronic headaches, chorea and rash. In addition, an individual might suffer from depression, poor memory or sudden hearing loss.

The cause of Hughes syndrome is uncertain. A presence of antiphospholipid antibodies in the body does not mean that an individual is afflicted with the disorder, nor does it mean that an individual will develop the disorder. These antiphospholipid antibodies can develop as a result of infection, medication or genetics. Hughes syndrome occurs mostly in women, but men can develop it as well. It is not unusual to find that an individual with another type of autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, also has Hughes syndrome.

There is no cure for Hughes syndrome, but the disorder can be diagnosed and treated. An individual with a history of blood clots might be diagnosed when tests reveal the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies in his body. Treatment options vary with the severity of each individual case. In general, the aim in treating the disorder is to stop blood from clotting. This can be achieved through the use of medications that allow for blood to thin, such as aspirin, heparin or warfarin.

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