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What Are Lupus Antibodies?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2014
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Lupus antibodies are antibodies that interfere with the process of coagulation, potentially causing problems with the blood vessels and circulatory system. The term used to refer to these antibodies is somewhat misleading, as having lupus antibodies does not necessarily mean a person has lupus. They are associated with other anti-immune disorders and can also be found in healthy people in some cases. Another term used is “antiphospholipid antibodies,” a more accurate description of these compounds that references the way they behave in the body.

These antibodies interact with the blood, leading to the development of abnormal coagulation. Paradoxically, outside the body, they can act as anticoagulants, and are sometimes known as lupus anticoagulants as a result. People with high numbers of lupus antibodies can develop blood disorders including thrombosis, hardened or narrowed blood vessels, and other issues. These disorders are caused by reactions between the patient's blood and the antibody.

The reason lupus antibodies develop is not well understood. Their formation involves a malfunction of the immune system where the immune system mistakenly tags normal substances in the body as harmful, telling immune cells to attack these substances. The concentration of lupus antibodies in the body can vary over time in a patient and may not always be a reflection of the severity of a patient's disease, if a patient has an autoimmune disease. Most commonly, the antibodies are identified during a routine blood panel or in a case where a patient is being specifically screened for clotting disorders.

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There are several options for management of cases where patients have lupus antibodies. It is not possible to get rid of the antibodies, but patients can voluntarily address risk factors like smoking and their diet to reduce the risk of developing a clotting disorder. For patients who are otherwise healthy, these small lifestyle adjustments may be the recommended treatment, and the patient will be monitored for any signs of complications.

In patients who are experiencing clotting problems, in addition to making lifestyle changes, it may be necessary to make other adjustments as well. Medications can be used to break up blood clots and keep the patient's blood from clotting in the future. Anticoagulant drugs come with risks, including concerns like internal bleeding, but the risks may be viewed as acceptable when contrasted with what will happen to the patient without treatment. Dosages can be periodically adjusted as the patient responds to the medication.

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Discuss this Article

SarahGen
Post 3

As everyone knows, lupus acts up periodically and causes symptoms to appear or worsen. This is called a lupus flare. I'm wondering, do lupus antibodies increase during a flare? Is that what causes the flare in the first place?

And what is the connection between stress, immunity and antibodies? I've noticed that my lupus flares-up when I'm under stress. If I'm not stressed, I'm usually okay with just a little fatigue. When I'm stressed, I get severe joint inflammation and rashes.

bear78
Post 2

@donasmrs-- Good question. Doctors run a blood test called ANA or antinuclear antibody test. This test shows the presence of antibodies in the blood. As the article said, this is not a test specific to lupus. So if the test comes back positive, it just means that the immune system has developed antibodies but it's not necessarily due to lupus. These antibodies also occur during infections and due to other immune system diseases. If someone has a positive ANA in addition to lupus symptoms like inflammation, rash and fatigue, however, then the individual will be diagnosed with lupus.

ANA test is the major test used to diagnose lupus but it's not the only one. Other blood tests are used as well. For example, doctors check red blood cell counts because these are usually lower than normal in people with lupus.

donasmrs
Post 1

How do doctors know that someone has lupus antibodies?

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