Antiphospholipid Syndrome is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the phospholipids (fatty acids with a phosphate backbone) in the body.

This can be a big deal, since we’re made up of cells, and phospholipids are the primary component of cell membranes. 

It’s not considered common (only 1-5% of the population), but it’s worth investigating particularly in the chronically ill population (as there is an association between phospholipid antibodies and chronic infections, including Lyme Disease and other bacterial infections, viral, and parasitic infections). There is also a strong connection to other autoimmune conditions—especially Lupus or SLE.

What Antiphospholipid Syndrome Does

Since cell membranes are primarily phospholipids, antibodies against them create cellular damage, which the body then has to repair. When this occurs in the bloodstream, the damage triggers clot formation to repair it.

Clots, depending upon their size, can cause decreased blood flow to tiny capillaries, which can lead to painful symptoms like fibromyalgia, or to damage to autonomic nerves, leading to POTS (Positional Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome).

Lack of blood flow can lead to poor exercise tolerance and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Poor blood flow in the brain can lead to rebound vasodilation, triggering migraines. By the same token, poor blood flow in the brain can also trigger seizures, and it has even been associated with dementia.

Antiphospholipid syndrome has probably been most associated with recurrent miscarriages, likely due to tiny clots blocking blood supply to the placenta.

Larger clots can cause chronic unexplained thrombocytopenia (low platelets), as the platelets are consumed in clot formation, as well as strokes, heart attacks, DVTs (Deep Vein Thrombosis) or pulmonary embolism (PE).

How to Test for Antiphospholipid Syndrome

Testing involves checking for several antibodies: anticardiolipin, lupus anticoagulant, antiphosphatidylserine, and antiphosphatidylserine/prothrombin complex. These can be done through LabCorp. 

Like with other autoimmune conditions, it’s possible to have the antibodies without having any symptoms of the syndrome—but it certainly does indicate a predisposition to watch out for. 

How to Treat

We don’t currently know of a cure for antiphospholipid syndrome—although in other autoimmune conditions, it is often possible to dramatically decrease antibody production or even bring them back into a normal range by healing the gut, identifying and removing any obstacles to cure, and giving the body the building blocks it needs to heal itself. Also, if there is an infectious trigger, I have to wonder if treating the underlying infection might cause regression of antibodies as well (as the possible obstacle to cure).

In the meantime, management of the condition involves inhibition of clot formation, via aspirin, heparin, or warfarin.

The Upshot

If you have any of the symptoms or conditions mentioned above and have yet to identify a root cause, it might be worth asking your doctor to test you for antiphospholipid syndrome.