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Preventing a Blood Clot for Diabetics

Diabetics have an increased rate of risk with plaque buildup in the arteries, causing dangerous blood clots. Figures state 80 percent of diabetics will eventually die of clot-related causes. Early diagnosis of Antiphospholipid syndrome can prevent blood clots and miscarriages.

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS),  or Hughes syndrome, is a disease of the immune system that causes an increased risk of blood clots. It’s linked to abnormal blood proteins known as aPL antibodies. However, some people, with other immune disorders, such as lupus, or apparently unrelated conditions, have these aPL antibodies without any signs of APS.

APS affects an estimated 1% of people, although many don’t realise they have it. More common in young people and black people, it affects at least three times as many women as men.

The symptoms

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is diagnosed if you’re found to have aPL antibodies following a thrombosis (blood clot) or pregnancy problems. With hindsight, you may realise you’ve been having low grade symptoms such as headaches/migraine, memory problems, dizziness, unsteadiness, joint pains and fatigue.

Blood clots can develop in arteries, veins or smaller blood vessels anywhere in the body and can produce a deep-vein thrombosis in the leg or arm, a heart attack or stroke, heart-valve damage, loss of sight, gradual kidney damage, or damage to the adrenal glands that produce adrenaline and steroids.

A blood clot that travels to the lung can cause sudden death. Other APS symptoms include anaemia, bone damage and purply-red skin/nail discoloration.

In pregnancy, APS can cause problems with placental blood supply. This can trigger recurrent miscarriages, slow baby growth, or preterm births (before 34 weeks)linked to pre-eclampsia and poor placental function.

Catastrophic APS (CAPS), in which multiple organs and tissues become affected over a few days or weeks, is rare, but can be fatal and requires immediate hospital treatment. The earlier APS is diagnosed the better, as life long treatment can provide protection, although it’s not 100% effective.

If you develop unexplained blood clots, or the pregnancy complications mentioned above, you’ll probably be offered a blood test for aPL antibodies and other causes of blood clotting, especially if you’re young. This is usually repeated after three months to confirm the diagnosis. You may also need blood tests to see how various organs are working, a Doppler scan for deep vein thrombosis, X-rays, heart, lung or brain scans and tests to rule out other causes of pregnancy problems.

Your care will be supervised by a haematologist (blood specialist) or rheumatologist. You’ll be treated with anticoagidant drugs to make your blood is less ‘sticky’, (warfarin or heparin). These drugs can have side effects and need careful monitoring. During pregnancy, you’ll be given heparin and/or aspirin, as warfarin can cause birth defects. Do tell your doctor if you’re planning to get pregnant.

Any APS complications will need appropriate treatment as they arise and good pregnancy care increases the chance of success from 20% to 70%.

6 ways to help APS

1. Avoid smoking, which narrows or blocks small blood vessels and is linked to CVD (cardiovascular disease).

2. Take regular exercise to maintain flexibility, balance and protect against other forms of CVD.

3. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg to protect against CVD and to reduce stress on bones and joints by maintaining a healthy weight.

4. Only drink alcohol in moderation, especially if you are on medication that affects blood clotting.

5. Avoid the combined oral contraceptive pill, which can also increase blood clot risks.

6. Try relaxation techniques or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you deal better with stress and fatigue.

E266 – Preventing a Blood Clot for Diabetics –

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