Anti Nuclear Antibodies (ANA) Lab Test

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What is the ANA (antinuclear antibodies) Test?

In general, the human body’s immune system produces antibodies that help fight infection. Antinuclear antibodies, however, are those antibodies that attack the body’s own tissue, specifically the nucleus of each sense.

This could lead to symptoms such as inflammation of organs or body tissue, joint or muscle pain, and fatigue and may result in an autoimmune disease like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma. The ANA (antinuclear antibodies) test confirms the presence of these antinuclear antibodies and is a simple blood test.

Why Do I Need antinuclear antibodies Test?

The symptoms of an autoimmune disease are joint or muscle pain, tiredness, mild fever, rash, weakness, light sensitivity, numbness, and hair loss. Autoimmune diseases are curable.

This test could help you rule out any other diseases and testing for particular antinuclear antibodies could point out certain diseases, thus making treatment easier.

What Other Tests Might I Have Along with ANA Test?

If tested positive for Antinuclear antibodies, the doctor may prescribe certain other tests to determine which specific antinuclear antibody is being produced so that the disease can be diagnosed and treated. Some examples of the particular antinuclear antibodies and the disease indicated are:

1. Anti-centromere- Scleroderma

2. Anti-double-stranded DNA- Lupus

3. Anti-histone- lupus (Caused by medicine is taken)

What Do My Test Results Mean?

The ANA test results may come back positive or negative. If the ANA test result comes back positive, it implies the presence of antinuclear antibodies.

If the ANA test result comes back negative, it implies that antinuclear antibodies are not present in the blood. False negative results are also seen in some cases. In such cases, other tests should be conducted to diagnose the symptoms being experienced.

It is possible to sometimes have a false positive test result. This means testing positive in spite of not having the disease or the antibodies. In general, this happens when the patient is a woman aged 65 or older, the patient is infected with a virus such as mononucleosis or tuberculosis, or the patient takes blood pressure or anti-seizure drugs.

How Is ANA Test Done?

As with a regular blood test, a health professional will clean the surface of the skin with an antiseptic and will apply pressure to the upper arm which causes the veins to swell. A needle is then inserted into a vein, and the blood is drawn and collected in a syringe.

Once the required amount of blood is collected, the needle is removed, and the injected area is dressed to stop the bleeding. This procedure takes only a few minutes. The blood then goes through a series of tests to check for the presence of antinuclear antibodies.

Does ANA Test Pose Any Risk?

There are some risks associated with this test. Most of the risks are associated with the cleanliness and sterilization of the equipment. If not properly sterilized, infections may be acquired. Another risk may be fainting or feeling lightheaded due to the loss of blood.

In some cases, the blood may also accumulate under the skin and cause lumps or bruises.

What Might Affect My Test Results?

The variables that may affect your test results are your nutritional diet, lifestyle and any other existing medications you're currently on. Doctors should be informed if you're using any supplements or prescription medications before the test is administered.

Sample Required for ANA test?

The sample required for this test is a blood sample. This sample is collected from a vein, usually in the arm and is collected in a syringe or vial. This is referred to as venepuncture.

How do you understand ANA test result?

If the ANA test result comes back positive, it implies that the presence of antinuclear antibodies is confirmed. A positive result also means that the patient may have an autoimmune disease and a more specific test should be conducted to confirm the disease.

Possible autoimmune diseases include lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, mixed connective tissue disease, dermatomyositis and others. On determining the exact disease, treatment must be started to cure the patient of the symptoms and the disease.

If the ANA test result comes back negative, it implies that antinuclear antibodies are not present in the blood. In some cases, even if the result is negative, autoimmune disease may be present. Other tests should be conducted to diagnose the symptoms being experienced.

How Do I Prepare For ANA Test?

When it comes to blood tests, there aren’t many precautions you need to take. You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for up to eight hours before the test is administered. Depending on what medications you take, your doctor will inform you whether or not you need to avoid them for some time before the test so that your results aren’t affected.

Doctors should also be informed of other tests you’ve undergone in the recent past, as some substances- such as radioactive substances- may affect the results of the test.

Understanding results of Anti Nuclear Antibodies (ANA)

Reference RangeInterpretation
> 1.2 IU /mlPositive
1.0 – 1.2 IU /mlEquivocal
< 1:10 IU /mlNegative

‘*A Reference range is a set of values which helps the healthcare professional to interpret a medical test. It may vary with age, gender, and other factors. Reference ranges may also vary between labs, in value & units depending on instruments used and method of establishment of reference ranges’

Conclusion

The ANA test is an important one if the patient shows symptoms of an autoimmune disease and should be done so that steps can be taken to save healthy cells from being destroyed by this disease.

References

  1. https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Antinuclear-Antibodies-ANA