An ANA blood test is a test that measures the amount of antinuclear antibodies in the blood stream. Antinuclear antibodies are autoantibodies that work against the cells and the nucleus. Everyone has low levels of these substances in their blood. However, if the amount is elevated, it may indicate there the presence of an autoimmune disease.
The ANA blood test is performed in a laboratory. A vial of blood is drawn from a vein in your arm by a laboratory technician. This sample of your blood will then be exposed in the laboratory to cells. If there are antibodies that react to the nucleus of these cells, then there is a finding of ANA antibodies present. If this level is high, the result will be considered positive.
Results of ANA blood tests are reported in titers. A titer of 1:40 is considered normal, but higher titers may suggest an autoimmune disease. ANA results are also stated in terms of their pattern. They may be diffuse, speckled or nucleolar. Specific diseases are often related to specific patterns. For instance, lupus is related with all three patterns. Mixed connective tissue disease is usually associated primarily with diffuse patterns. Your physician will go over these results with you and determine what other tests are needed to determine a diagnosis.
Symptoms That Warrant ANA Testing
Autoimmune diseases are often called the invisible diseases because of the difficulty in coming up with a diagnosis. These diseases are called autoimmune because they attack the body's immune system. Some symptoms of autoimmune diseases include joint pain, rashes, fever, body aches and chronic fatigue. Some of these diseases are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, mixed connective tissue disease and scleroderma.
ANA and Autoimmune Diseases
Antinuclear antibodies are unlike other antibodies in the blood stream. Normally these particles repel virus and bacteria microbes from the cells but antinuclear ones bind to the nucleus of cells. This can cause inflammation and autoimmune issues. Therefore, people who are predisposed to inflammation may have a higher ANA count.
A positive ANA count does not mean that you have an autoimmune disease. It is just one indicator that allows your physician to begin to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan. Many people have a positive ANA count and have no evidence of an autoimmune disease. If you are diagnosed with one of these diseases, educate yourself on living well with it. There are options, continuing research and support available. Your physician will be able to guide you on resources.