The Family—It comes as no surprise that a family history is an important clue in Hughes syndrome. Autoimmune disease (particularly thyroid) crops up regularly as a diagnosis in relatives of our patients. But how often are these family cases diagnosed? Examples could include the 17-year-old daughter of an APS patient suffering from headache and glandular fever, the sibling with multiple sclerosis or the mother and aunt of a newly diagnosed APS patient who suffered a stroke in their early 40s.
You Might Also Like
Explore This IssueFebruary 2016
It is not inconceivable that APS has changed the course of history, as in the case reported by my friend, Dr. Gerald Weissmann, of Queen Anne of England who had 17 failed pregnancies and died childless, thereby bringing an end to the Stuart reign and the start of the Hanoverians—with George III, American Colony taxes, the revolution and the birth of the U.S.50
The Offspring—To date, most studies have suggested that the offspring of aPL-positive mothers have no major adverse effects (other than, perhaps, the later-developing inherited APS features in some). However, some worrying case reports of fetal and neonatal problems indicate a need for further study. The ongoing studies of Drs. Anne Parke, Angela Tincani, Maria Claire Boffa and others will, in time, provide some of these missing data.51,52
Classification vs. diagnosis—
Dear Doctor, I would be grateful if you could advise on this patient. She developed thrombosis on the oral contraceptive pill. She has had one positive test for aPL, but did not have a repeat test 12 weeks later.
As in the case of lupus, classification criteria do sometimes become mixed up with diagnosis. Many patients don’t come armed with tests “12 weeks apart” (this criterion was introduced to cover the risk that an inter-current infection might have led to a transient positive aPL test—not a major factor in our assessment of this patient).
There are also financial considerations, such as in the following study from Beirut, Lebanon.
“Only 50.5% had both aCL and LA tested. … The cost of each test was around US$50 for the patient. … It remains to be seen whether the test costs might partly explain the very small percentage of patients who did undergo a follow-up confirmatory test.”
The passage of time has also revealed one positive finding: It’s very unusual for patients with primary APS to develop lupus in later years.
The recognition of the many non-thrombotic manifestations of APS has added to the importance of separating diagnosis from classification. Perhaps, laboratory advances in the measurement of potential risk markers will, in time, come to our aid.44