Sticky blood has many other names: Hughes Syndrome, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, APS and is an autoimmune disorder where abnormal antibodies attack phospholipids which have an important role in maintaining the consistency of blood; the blood becomes too sticky which increases the risk of blood clots.

This syndrome can be developed in isolation (primary) and also with another autoimmune disease like lupus (secondary) and there is some mystery linked to the disease as 5% of the population have antiphospholipid antibodies but don’t present any of the symptoms and only 1% of people have the actual antiphospholipid syndrome. This is significant because some people that have the antibodies that cause this syndrome don’t actually develop it; there must be something in the bodies of those with Hughes Syndrome that is different to that 5%, this difference is currently unknown but would probably help a treatment to be developed to prevent sticky blood. People that develop Hughes Syndrome typically do so between 18 and 40 years old.

Having another autoimmune disease like lupus and other infections like Hepatitis C increase the risk of getting APS, as well as being a middle-aged woman, getting pregnant or high cholesterol. It seems that to reduce the risk if a person who has the abnormal antibodies they have to monitor their diet, exercise and cholesterol levels.

Sticky blood syndrome increases the risk of many other health problems. For example, 1 in 3 have heart valve problems, 1 in 5 of people who have deep vein thrombosis and stroke under the age of 45, which is when there are blood clots in the legs also have Hughes Syndrome. However, most patients with Hughes Syndrome are able to live healthy lives now that there are treatments that reduce the risk of clots like low doses of aspirin and the former risk of miscarriages and premature births in women with APS has been reduced to 25-20%. Only a few individuals continue to develop clots even with treatment.

Because clots are the main tell-tale sign of APS, a travelling clot and the consequences of it are what reveal the syndrome. For example, if a person had a stroke caused by a blood clot which interrupts blood flow to areas of the body, the most common cause being blood flow to the brain, would give a hospital the opportunity to use pathology to analyse the person’s blood to see if they have the abnormal antibodies as there are other causes for strokes. In less common symptoms, the blood clot may form dementia because of the blocked blood flow to the brain. Due to these risks, if Hughes Syndrome is spotted early, the dangers can be prevented completely with medication but if it if left to the point where the individual already has damaged brain tissue, their way of life and health has already been compromised.

The one, unanswered question I had was- why are there five names for one disease? Comment below if you think you know!

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