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In 1983 Dr Graham Hughes and his team in London described in detail a condition – often known as “sticky blood”, in which there was a danger of thrombosis.

This condition – easily diagnosed by simple blood tests, affects millions of people throughout the world. The good news is that once diagnosed, the disease can, in most people, be treated, and further thrombosis (clotting) prevented.

Patients with the syndrome were at risk, both from vein thrombosis (including DVT’s), and in some, more dangerous arterial thrombosis, including a risk of strokes and heart attacks. In women with the syndrome, the “sticky blood” is unable to get through the sensitive small blood vessels in the placenta to the fetus, and there is a risk of miscarriage.

The discovery of the condition came from careful clinical observation. Whilst treating patients with a condition called lupus, Dr Hughes noted that some of his lupus patients had a tendency to blood clots, to headaches and even strokes and, in pregnancy, to clotting of the placenta and miscarriage.

cartoonFurthermore, Dr Hughes recognised that this group of patients could be distinguished by a specific blood test – the detection of so-called “antiphospholipid antibody”. He immediately recognised that the Syndrome could also occur without lupus – indeed, in the vast majority of patients, there was no evidence of Lupus, hence the name ‘primary’ antiphospholipid syndrome for these patients.

Dr Hughes gave the syndrome the name antiphospholipid syndrome (or APS). In the mid 1990s international colleagues re-named the syndrome ‘Hughes Syndrome’ to honour the doctor who described it.

Info: Hughes Syndrome Foundation