Autoimmune Disease

Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS)


Antiphospholipid (AN-te-fos-fo-LIP-id) antibody syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders occur if the body's immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the body's tissues or cells. Antibodies are a type of protein. The immune system usually makes these proteins to defend against infection.

In APS, the body makes antibodies that mistakenly attack phospholipids—a type of fat. Phospholipids are found in all living cells and cell membranes, including blood cells and the lining of blood vessels.

When antibodies attack phospholipids, they damage cells. This causes unwanted blood clots to form in the body's arteries and veins. (These are the vessels that carry blood to your heart and body.)

Usually, blood clotting is a normal bodily process. Blood clots help seal small cuts or breaks on blood vessel walls. This prevents you from losing too much blood. In APS, however, too much blood clotting can block blood flow and damage the body's organs.

SOURCE: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

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March is Autoimmune Disease
Awareness Month!

Autoimmune diseases result from a dysfunction of the immune system. The immune system protects you from disease and infection. Sometimes, though, the immune system can produce autoantibodies that attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs. This can lead to autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body. More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been identified. Some are relatively well known, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, while others are rare and difficult to diagnose.

Collectively, autoimmune diseases are among the most prevalent diseases in the U.S., affecting more than 23.5 million Americans. They are more common among women, and while some are more prevalent among white people, others are more common among African-Americans and Hispanics. Autoimmune diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent, for reasons unknown.

Some autoimmune diseases are life-threatening, and most are debilitating and require a lifetime of treatment. There are treatments available to reduce the symptoms and effects from many autoimmune diseases, but cures have yet to be discovered. Since most autoimmune diseases are rare, patients can often spend years seeking a proper diagnosis.

Learn more about autoimmune diseases here.