The abnormal antiphospholipid antibodies that are produced by the immune system of people with Hughes syndrome can cause a wide range of symptoms that affect all parts of your body.
Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with Hughes syndrome are described below, although most people will not experience all of the symptoms listed.
Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is one of the most common symptoms of Hughes syndrome. DVT is when a blood clot develops inside one of the larger and deeper veins in your body, usually inside the calf or thigh.
Symptoms of DVT include:
pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually the calf)
- a heavy ache in the affected area
- warm skin in the area of the clot
- redness, particularly at the back of your leg, below the knee
DVT usually affects only one leg. The pain may be worse if you bend your foot upward towards your knee.
One of the biggest risks is that the blood clot may move out of your leg and travel towards your lungs. If the blot clot reaches the lungs, it is known as a pulmonary embolism. See below for more information about pulmonary embolism.
Strokes and transient ischaemic attacks (TIA)
Strokes are one of the most serious symptoms that are associated with Hughes syndrome. They develop when a blood clot blocks the supply of blood to the brain.
If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, dial 999 immediately to call an ambulance.
The most effective way to identify the symptoms of a stroke is remember the word FAST, which stands for:
Face: the face may have fallen on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
Arms: the person may not be able to raise both arms and keep them there due to weakness or numbness.
Speech: the person's speech may be slurred.
Time: it is time to dial 999 immediately if there are any of these signs or symptoms.
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a "mini-stroke", is caused when a blood clot causes a temporary reduction, or blockage, of blood to the brain.
The symptoms of a TIA are the same as for a stroke, but they only last from between a few minutes to a few hours, before completely disappearing. However, you should never ignore a TIA because it is a serious warning sign that there is a problem with the blood supply to your brain.
Contact your GP if you, or someone else, has had a TIA. If this is not possible, contact your local hospital or out-of-hours service immediately to arrange for a specialist assessment.
While heart attacks are less common than strokes, they are another very serious symptom associated with Hughes syndrome. A heart attack can occur when a blood clot forms in one of your coronary arteries (the blood vessels that lead to the heart). The blood clot blocks the blood supply to your heart.
Dial 999 immediately if you think that you, or someone you know, is having a heart attack. A heart attack requires immediate emergency treatment so do not wait to seek medical assistance.
The common symptoms of a heart attack are:
- crushing central chest pain, or mild chest discomfort
- shortness of breath
- clammy, sweaty and grey complexion
- nausea and vomiting
- a general feeling of being unwell
- a frightening sense that one is about to die
Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that occurs in one of the blood vessels of the leg. Most pulmonary embolisms are the result of a blood clot travelling from your leg up into your lungs.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:
- shortness of breath
- severe chest pain
- a persistent cough, which may bring up blood-stained phlegm
Left untreated, a pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Contact your GP immediately if you suspect that you have one. If you cannot reach your GP, contact your local out-of-hours service or NHS Direct (0845 46 47).
Women with Hughes syndrome have a much higher risk of developing complications during their pregnancy, particularly if it is left untreated. These complications include:
- recurrent (three or more) early miscarriages, usually in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy
- one or more later-term miscarriages, usually after the 10th week of pregnancy
- premature birth, usually at or before the 34th week of pregnancy, which is often due to pre-eclampsia. This is a condition where a pregnant woman suddenly experiences a rise in blood pressure
Livedo reticularis is a skin condition caused by small blood clots that develop inside the blood vessels of the skin.
Livedo reticularis causes the skin to take on a red or blue, blotchy appearance, and some people will also develop ulcers (sores) and nodules (bumps). The condition is often more severe in cold weather.
Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation (swelling) of the veins that are located just under your skin, usually in your leg. The symptoms of the condition are similar to DVT, but they are not usually as severe. They include:
- swelling, redness and tenderness along the affected vein
- a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, although this is less common
The symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis usually resolve within two to six weeks.
There are a number of symptoms that are associated with Hughes syndrome that have been reported by many people with the condition. These include:
migraine-like headaches, often associated with visual disturbances, such as seeing flashing lights, or zigzag patterns
- memory loss
epilepsy, a condition that causes repeated seizures (fits)
- uncontrollable jerking of your limbs (chorea)
multiple sclerosis-like symptoms, such as loss of balance, double vision, a feeling of pins and needles in your arms and legs, and difficulty walking.
It is thought that these symptoms may be due to the effects that antiphospholipid antibodies have on your brain.