Monday, February 2, 2009

All about Hughes Syndrome

An interesting article from the UK:

Hughes is a relatively new condition that is just beginning to become recognised by the wider medical community outside the specialised area of auto-immune diseases (in which the body's immune systems attacks itself). The professor first began to note the condition in the mid-Seventies when he was working in a rheumatology clinic in Jamaica. "I noticed there were a whole group of women, paralysed, and forced to use wheelchairs, with the same antibodies in their blood."

When he returned to the UK a few years later, he set up a working party to study the antibodies he had found. Very quickly, his unit had collected up hundreds of patients whose blood carried the antibodies and whose symptoms all resulted from clotting around major organs. "They weren't just suffering clots in their veins but also in their arteries which led to strokes and heart attacks."

Significantly, the clots were also found to have serious effects when they occurred at two particular organs: the placenta and the brain. In the former cases, this led to multiple and unexplained miscarriages. In the latter, they starved the brain of oxygen, leading to migraines, memory loss and what many patients simply described as 'fogginess'.

By 1983, Prof Hughes' team had gathered enough evidence for two papers to be published: one in the British Medical Journal and the other in the Lancet. For the team, this felt like a 'eureka' moment. "We were finally getting our message across. We all celebrated with a long lunch at the local Italian restaurant," says Hughes.

Gynecologists picked up the news fast; the respected royal gynaecologist Dr Anthony Kenny called it the major discovery in obstetrics in the 20th century, and it has revolutionised treatment of women with recurrent miscarriage. Where the antibodies are present, and blood thinners are given, to prevent clotting at the placenta, the rate of successful pregnancy soars from about 20 per cent to 80 per cent.