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Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune condition where antibodies attack a component of cell membranes. This leads to clotting in both arteries and veins which usually lead to further complications such as deep-vein thrombosis or stroke as well as infarctions in the smaller blood vessels. In pregnant women, it can lead to serious complications with the fetus and often results in preeclampsia, miscarriage or stillbirth. In severe cases, the clots can lead to widespread organ damage and death.
Antiphospholipid syndrome usually appears along with another autoimmune condition, typically lupus. This is called secondary antiphospholipid syndrome. However, in rarer cases, the condition can develop in the absence of any other illness. This is called primary antiphospholipid syndrome. The primary form can often result in other autoimmune conditions.
Antiphospholipid syndrome is difficult to diagnose because like many other zebras, the primary symptoms of the disease are far more likely to be caused by more prosaic illnesses. Even when suspected, it is difficult to come to a definitive diagnosis without doing tests that have to be done several weeks apart.
Antiphospholipid syndrome can be managed like many other autoimmune conditions. For less severe cases, aspirin is the treatment of choice as it will usually be sufficient to stop widespread clotting. For more severe cases, warfarin can be used. Plasmapheresis can be used when the patient will not respond to drug therapy.