• Antinuclear Antibody Testing to Determine Autoimmune Diseases

    Antibodies are actually proteins produce by white blood cells. The role of antibodies is to recognize, combat and eliminate infectious organisms in the body. In some cases, the antibodies wrongly identify normal proteins found within a cell’s nucleus, and “attack” them. These antibodies are called antinuclear antibodies or ANA.  The production of ANAs could be a sign that the body is attacking itself which is indicative of any of the known autoimmune diseases such as (and not limited to):

    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Scleroderma
    • Addison disease
    • Antiphospholipid syndrome
    • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Juvenile RA (JRA)
    • Sjögren syndrome
    • Autoimmune hepatitis
    • Celiac disease
    • Graves disease
    • Polymyositis
    • Mixed connective tissue disease
    • Dermatomyositis

    How is the Antinuclear Antibody Test Used?

    The ANA Test is recommended for the screening of autoimmune diseases more so in the diagnosis of SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). The ANA Test is usually done in tandem with other autoantibody tests such as CRP (C-reactive protein) and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) for a more targeted diagnosis.

    When is the Antinuclear Antibody Test Recommended?

    The ANA Test is doctor recommended when a patient have symptoms associated with any autoimmune diseases, especially SLE.  An ANA Test is also highly recommended for an autoimmune-compromised person in case he has developed another autoimmune disorder.

    Positive Reading for Antinuclear Antibody Test

    A positive ANA reading does not necessarily indicate the presence of an autoimmune disease. Studies show that up to 15% of healthy persons and 37% of healthy individuals over the age of 65 could test positive for antinuclear antibodies. Medications such as dilating, hydralazine and procainamide can cause a positive antinuclear antibody test result.

    ANAs are also found in patients with ailments that are not classified as antibody test such as cancer and chronic infections. Elderly people with a family history of rheumatic diseases may read positive for antinuclear antibodies too. A false positive ANA reading is also possible. For a more definite diagnosis, further specialized testing is required.

    Next Step after ANA Test

    If the result of the antinuclear antibody test is positive, let the doctor assess the situation. Your doctor will determine the next step to take. Although a positive ANA test indicates the presence of autoimmune antibodies, the result could be false positive. In the event that the final diagnosis points out to an autoimmune disease, it is manageable. You can still lead an active full life as long as you adhere to your treatment and take on a healthy lifestyle.

    References:

    http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/ana/tab/test

    http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/ana.asp

    http://www.medicinenet.com/antinuclear_antibody/article.htm

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