What are Anticardiolipin Antibodies?

Jennifer Long

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.

Blood tests can help single out the anticardiolipin antibodies.
Blood tests can help single out the anticardiolipin antibodies.

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.

A gynecologist can order a test to look for anticardioplin antibodies in her patient.
A gynecologist can order a test to look for anticardioplin antibodies in her patient.

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.

Organ failure may occur as a result of the presence of anticardiolipin antibodies.
Organ failure may occur as a result of the presence of anticardiolipin antibodies.

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.

Compression stockings are one option for the treatment of DVT.
Compression stockings are one option for the treatment of DVT.

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.

Women who are pregnant and are taking medications will need to be regularly monitored by a physician.
Women who are pregnant and are taking medications will need to be regularly monitored by a physician.

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.

Blood thinners may cause severe nosebleeds and other complications in some people.
Blood thinners may cause severe nosebleeds and other complications in some people.

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.

Patients may experience blood clots in the legs.
Patients may experience blood clots in the legs.
Frequent blood clots can damage major organs such as the lungs, kidneys or heart, and cause a stroke in the brain.
Frequent blood clots can damage major organs such as the lungs, kidneys or heart, and cause a stroke in the brain.

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