Testing for Antiphospholipid Antibodies

Women who are dealing with infertility, particularly recurrent miscarriages, are likely to undergo testing for antiphospholipid antibodies. Antiphospholipid antibodies (APA) are proteins naturally produced by your body but that mistake your cells for invaders. When APA attack, they bind to a cell’s membrane, making it sticky. This causes improper blood flow and can contribute to the formation of blood clots (thrombosis) as well as other health issues.

Why Test for It?

Individuals who have APA are usually diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). Though not necessarily the cause, APS is commonly found in women who have suffered repeat miscarriage. If no explanation has been found for your fertility issues, receiving an APA test can help pinpoint the problem, thereby allowing you to receive the proper infertility treatment.

However, it is not just people with fertility problems that have APA. Between 2% and 15% of the healthy population have APA in their system, they just don’t know it. This is because their APA levels are so low, they fail to cause any significant health problems. Only in individuals with high APA levels are health issues likely to materialize. Other people that may have high levels of APA include those with lupus, migraine sufferers and people diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

Getting Tested

Since there are actually 21 different types of APA, the antiphospholipid antibody test will screen for the various APA. However, it is possible to test for specific APA if your health care provider feels it is necessary. To determine whether you have APA in your system, a sample of your blood will be taken and sent off to a lab for analysis.

The amount of APA in your blood will be measured in titers. Titers refer to the amount of blood that can be diluted until no more antibodies are present in it. Your results can come back as normal, meaning that you have no or very low amounts of APA in your system; borderline, which implies that your blood contains an abnormal amount of APA; and high, meaning that you have too many APA in your blood. A high level normally measures between 1:100 and 1:400.

Receiving Treatment

Women that are found to have high levels of APA will likely request treatment in order to thin out their blood thereby reducing their risk of blood clots, recurrent miscarriage, pregnancy complications (such as pre-eclampsia) and heart attack. Treatment for APS is quite simple: daily administration of low-dose aspirin or an anti-coagulant is typically prescribed.

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