Anti-Cardiolipin Antibody Test (ACA)
If you are currently undergoing fertility treatment, then you are probably pretty familiar with the huge gamut of tests that often goes along with it. Before you can proceed with fertility treatments, it is necessary to find out exactly what is going on with your reproductive system, and this may require undergoing a number of different tests. The anti-cardiolipin antibody test is designed to help discover the reasons behind unexplained infertility. If you are having trouble getting pregnant but can't seem to find out why, this test may provide some answers.
What are Cardiolipin Antibodies?
Cardiolipin antibodies are proteins found in your body that work against cardiolipin. Cardiolipin is a molecule found in your blood platelets and various cell membranes. It is one of a group of molecules called phospholipids. You need cardiolipin in order to help regulate blood clotting throughout your body. Sometimes though, your body can mistake cardiolipin for an attacking substance. As a result, your body creates soldier-like molecules to fight against the cardiolipin.
Types of Cardiolipin Antibodies
There are three main types of cardiolipin antibodies. The level of each type of anti-cardiolipin is examined during the anti-cardiolipin test. They include:
What are the Effects of Cardiolipin Antibodies?
If your body contains cardiolipin antibodies, you may experience no symptoms at all. In fact, up to 2% of the population, both men and women, have anti-cardiolipin in their blood stream. It is only when these levels are quite high that they pose a problem.
If you have high levels of anti-cardiolipin antibodies in your blood, you may begin to notice certain symptoms. These can include:
- unexplained miscarriage
- unexplained stillbirth
- unexplained infertility
- blood clots in your veins or arteries
Who Has Cardiolipin Antibodies?
Though anyone can have cardiolipin antibodies in their bloodstream, some people are more likely to have persistent anti-cardiolipin problems. People with autoimmune diseases, like Lupus and HIV/AIDS are more likely to have high levels of anti-cardiolipin. It has also been discovered that up to 15% of infertility patients also have higher-than-normal anti-cardiolipins.
Cardiolipin antibodies and Infertility
Because of the high numbers of infertile women suffering from increased cardiolipin antibodies, it is now thought that immune system antibodies might play a major role in preventing conception. Though studies conflict on the subject, many reports indicate that women with cardiolipin antibodies have a harder time getting pregnant and carrying their pregnancies to term. This may be because anti-cardiolipin antibodies can cause tiny blood clots, preventing blood from flowing to the reproductive organs or placenta.
The Anti-Cardiolipin Antibody Test
If you are still in the dark about what is causing your fertility problems, you may want to ask your health care provider to run an anti-cardiolipin antibody test. This test is a very simple procedure. All it requires is a blood sample, which is taken by needle from a vein in your arm. This blood is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
When your results come in, your health care provider will help you to interpret the results. There should be three different measurments - one for each type of cardiolipin antibody.
- Normal Results: Normal results mean that you have typical levels of cardiolipin antibodies in your blood. Normal IgG is below 23 ug/mL, while normal IgM and IgA is below 11 ug/mL.
- Abnormal Results: Abnormal results indicate that you have higher-than-normal levels of cardiolipin antibody in your blood. Levels that are slightly above 23 ug/mL may not be a cause for concern. Sometimes, cardiolipin antibodies are elevated temporarily due to colds or the flu. Levels that are between 25ug/mL and 70 ug/mL however, may interfere with your ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term.
After the Test
Once you have gotten your test results back, it is important to discuss your options with your health care provider. If you have borderline results, it is probably a good idea to perform the test again in about 6 weeks. This will allow for any fluctuations due to minor illnesses. If your levels are high, you may consider treatment to help control the number of anti-cardiolipin antibodies in your blood. This will reduce your risk of blood clots and hopefully, allow you to conceive and carry a baby to term. Treatments generally involve medication, such as:
- baby aspirin
- gamma globulin