Can lupus put me at risk for blood clots?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Lupus can put you at risk for blood clots in a few different ways. First, a good number of people with lupus make antibodies which make clots more likely. Second, people with lupus have chronic inflammation in their blood vessels. Any inflammation of the blood vessels can make clots more likely. Lastly, people with lupus can have chronic pain. Chronic pain can cause people to lead sedentary lifestyles. By slowing down the movement of blood, you have an additional risk factor for blood clots.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
About 50 percent of people with lupus have certain antibodies that make blood clots more likely to occur. An antibody is a special protein your body produces to fight off infections and other invaders. If you suffer from lupus, your antibodies actually work against your own body and you produce them at a very fast rate.
About half of people who suffer from lupus, and who also have these particular antiphospholipid antibodies, may experience a blood clot sometime over a 20-year time frame. Like other antibodies involved in lupus that are directed against your own body (auto-antibodies), antiphospholipid antibodies can come and go or increase and decrease.
The particular antiphospholipid antibodies that can cause blood clots include:
  • Lupus anticoagulant (LA)
  • Anticardiolipin antibody (aCL)
  • Anti-beta glycoprotein (anti-betaGPI)
  • Anti-prothrombin
  • The "false-positive" test for syphilis
Blood clots can form anywhere in the body and can lead to stroke, gangrene, heart attack, and other serious complications. If you have lupus, you can experience a blood clot even if your lupus symptoms are under control.
You can also experience the following complications:
  • Fetal loss and/or miscarriages
  • Blood clots of the veins or arteries (thromboses)
  • Low platelet counts (autoimmune thrombocytopenia)
  • Strokes
  • Stroke warnings (transient ischemic attacks)
  • Libman-Sacks endocarditis-This occurs when a blood clot forms on a specific heart valve
  • Pulmonary emboli
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Livedo-This is a purple or reddish lacy pattern just under your skin that is especially noticeable on your arms and legs
If you have livedo, you do not necessarily also have antiphospholipid antibodies, but doctors do find that the two conditions do show a relationship. Livedo can be associated with other diseases of the blood vessels, and many perfectly healthy women also experience the condition.

Continue Learning about Lupus Risk Factors

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.