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Though antibodies are usually a part of the immune system which help fight disease, some people may develop a type of antibody that attacks parts of the plasma cells in their blood instead. This type of antibody is known as lupus anticoagulant. The majority of people who have lupus anticoagulants are those with the disease systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known just as lupus; it can also affect people with certain other diseases or those on some medications. Having this antibody may put patients at increased risk for blood clots and related issues, though some people may have no problems or symptoms at all. Treatment for the condition can vary depending on how it affects a person, but it can typically be managed very successfully.
A lupus anticoagulant antibody treats the phospholipids and proteins that make up a portion of the cell membranes of plasma cells as invaders in the body. It therefore attacks these healthy cells in the body instead of true foreign bodies like bacteria or viruses. These attacks on the plasma cells make the person's blood more likely to clot.
There are several factors which may lead to lupus anticoagulant being present in a person's blood. People with the autoimmune disorder lupus often have the antibody present in their systems. Some types of infections and tumors may stimulate its production. Those with Crohn's disease and HIV may also be susceptible. Taking some types of drugs, including amoxicillin, quinine, and some birth control pills may also lead to its presence.
Though the presence of lupus anticoagulant may not cause any issues at all, some people do develop problems from it. Some people may suffer from nosebleeds, bruising, or skin rashes. Women with the antibody may have irregular menstrual cycles; they may also tend to miscarry when they become pregnant, sometimes repeatedly. Patients with this condition may tend to develop blood clots. This can lead to some serious complications, including heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism.
For patients with no symptoms of lupus anticoagulant, no treatment is usually necessary, though their doctors may wish to monitor them to ensure no problems arise. Patients with clotting issues will often be put on blood-thinning drugs, sometimes for extended periods of time if necessary. If the problem is being caused by a medication, the doctor may discontinue it and look for alternative treatments.