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Antinuclear Antibody ANA

What Is An Antinuclear Antibody Test?

An antinuclear antibody test is a blood test that helps measure specific types of antibodies in your body. Due to this reason, this test is also called ANA or fluorescent antinuclear antibody test. Antibodies are proteins generated by your immune system. They help your body recognize, come into action and fight multiple infections. Typically, antibodies target harmful substances like viruses, bacteria, and fungus by activating the immune system to eliminate them out of the body. However, sometimes these antibodies mistakenly start to target your healthy tissues and cells. This phenomenon is called the Autoimmune response, in which the antibodies attack healthy proteins within the nucleus, i.e., antinuclear antibodies.

When your body begins to receive signals to attack its cells, it can lead to an autoimmune disorder if left untreated. Many health conditions like scleroderma, lupus, autoimmune hepatitis, mixed connective tissue diseases, and other similar conditions may occur and give rise to life-threatening concerns. While it is normal for you to have some ANA, having too many of these proteins in the blood serum can signify an active autoimmune disorder. This test helps your doctor determine the accurate level of antinuclear antibodies in your blood and understand the severity of your autoimmune condition.

What Is The Test Used For?

The purpose of this antinuclear antibody test is to catch, measure, and then assess the presence of antinuclear antibodies in your blood sample. The ANA testing is one of the most promising tools to assist healthcare providers in diagnosing autoimmune disorders in their patients. It also provides information that helps determine the specific type of autoimmune disorder you may be going through. Testing for antinuclear antibodies is mainly suggested for patients with visible symptoms of an autoimmune disorder. ANA is detectable in several disorders like:

The antinuclear antibody test cannot diagnose an autoimmune disorder individually, so a doctor must consider your test results and physical examination, symptoms, and other related laboratory tests to rule out a particular medical condition.

Why And When Do You Need Antinuclear Antibody Test?

An antinuclear antibody test can help your doctor diagnose autoimmune disorders such as:

  • Scleroderma (a rare disease that affects your joints, skin, and blood vessels)
  • Sjogren's syndrome ( another rare disorder that affects your body's moisture making glands)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE ( the most common type of lupus that chronically affects multiple parts of your body, including blood vessels, brain, kidney, and joints)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis ( a common condition that causes swelling and pain of the joints, mostly those present in your hands and feet)

Your doctor or health care provider can also order an ANA test if you are experiencing symptoms of any autoimmune disorder like lupus. The signs and symptoms are:

  • Muscle pain
  • Extreme joint swelling and stiffness
  • Constant tiredness
  • Persistent or recurring fever
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red rash on your cheeks and bridge of the nose, making them look like Butterfly
  • Hair loss
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in your hands and feet

What Kind Of Sample Is Required For The Test?

The antinuclear antibody test is similar to any other blood test you may have gone through before. The lab technician who performs a blood test will tie an elastic band around your upper arm in this test. The veins will swell with blood and make it easy to find the desired mean. He then cleans the site with an antiseptic and inserts the needle into your arm. Your blood will start to collect in the tube attached to the needle. Once an adequate blood sample is collected in the tube, the doctor will remove the needle from your vein and put a bandage at the puncture site.  

Do You Need To Prepare For The Test?

The ANA test does not require any pre-test preparations. Like any other blood test, it might be a bit helpful for you to discuss your other medications and dietary supplements with your doctor beforehand, as some drugs can Alter The antinuclear antibody test results.

Are There Any Risks To This Test?

This blood test has very few risks to it. After the blood test, you might feel a slight sting at the injection site. Some people also experience a small bruise later. In rare cases, there are chances of:

  • Bleeding
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Bruising
  • Soreness at the injection site

What Do The Test Results Mean?

Negative test results mean that your chances of developing an autoimmune disorder are less. 
However, your doctor might require some other tests if you still show some symptoms. Some people with autoimmune disorders may also get negative test results for antinuclear antibodies but may be positive for other kinds of antibodies. 

On the other hand, a positive result means that you have high levels of ANA in your blood serum. This positive test is often reported as a ratio or a pattern ( speckled or smooth). Different diseases are more likely to have different patterns in the results. The higher the ratio, the more likely you are to have a true positive result showing the presence of an autoimmune disease. Nonetheless, a positive test result does not always indicate an autoimmune disease. Around 20% of completely healthy people might deliver a positive ANA test called a false-positive test result. Remember that the titers are also affected by your age, so it is essential to talk with your doctor about your symptoms and the interpretation of the results.

A positive test alone is not an indication of a specific disease, but some conditions linked with a positive ANA in the blood include:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Polymyositis
  • Dermatomyositis

Different lab tests can differ in their standards when it comes to a positive ANA test. If your results are positive, the doctor might need some other tests to determine if the results are due to a specific suspected condition.

Related Tests:  Anti-Centromere Test, Anti-Histone Test, ENA (Extractable Nuclear Antigen Antibodies) Panel, Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

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