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What Are Anticardiolipin Antibodies?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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Anticardiolipin antibodies are antibodies that the body creates to target cardiolipin and phospholipid. Cardiolipin is a part of the inner section of the mitochondrial membrane in cells. Phospholipid is a major part of the cell wall. The antibodies directly attack the cardiolipin and phospholipid of the cell walls.

Also called antiphospholipid syndrome, the anticardolipin antibodies occur as a result of specific problems, such as liveoid vasculitis, lupus, and syphilis. Although many people experience symptoms because there is a condition present, some people may not have symptoms at all. It is often diagnosed when symptoms occur and become particularly bothersome to the sufferer.

When anticardiolipin antibodies are present, patients may experience frequent blood clots. These blood clots can be found in the legs, vital organs, and brain. Clots in the legs are known as deep vein thrombosis. Vital organs, such as the lungs, kidneys, or heart, can suffer damage and lead to organ failure. When clots occur in the brain, neurological symptoms or a stroke are likely.

Only testing can confirm the presence of anticardiolipin antibodies. Blood tests can help single out the antibodies. It is likely that a specialist will order the testing as a diagnostic measure when trying to find the exact cause for a clot. For example, a gynecologist or obstetrician will order the test if a miscarriage or pregnancy complications arise, and a hematologist will be looking for the cause of leg clots.

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Blood testing for anticardiolipin antibodies is performed more than once. When multiple clots or problems with pregnancy occur, a doctor will order testing. Two tests are generally performed and are spaced 12 weeks apart, and the antibodies must be present both times to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases it is necessary to perform more than two tests, which will also be spaced 12 weeks apart.

If the blood clots occur as a result of an underlying condition, treatment for that condition must start. Treatment for recurring clots is also recommended. In many cases, doctors will prescribe blood thinners to help prevent clots. Low-dose aspirin therapy may also be helpful.

Close monitoring is crucial. Patients on medications must be watched for bleeding because blood thinners prevent blood from clotting. A small injury can be dangerous. Patients must also be watched for new clots or serious damage from existing clots. Women who are pregnant and are taking medication receive regular monitoring and check-ups to monitor the health of the unborn baby.

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