The anti-nuclear antibody test or the ANA test is prescribed as part of a screening test to check if a person is suffering from an autoimmune disorder or not. The ANA blood test checks for the presence of markers that are specific to having an autoimmune disorder. Many rheumatic diseases and autoimmune disorders have common symptoms. This screening test helps determine further prognosis.
The test is also known as an anti-nuclear antibody panel and fluorescent anti-nuclear antibody or FANA test.
The anti-nuclear antibody or ANA test helps determine the presence of autoantibodies in the blood. Autoantibodies are formed when a person’s immune system starts attacking the body’s healthy cells.
This test is prescribed when the person shows the following symptoms:
Swelling of the joints
Sensitivity to light, especially ultraviolet rays
Tingling feeling in hands and feet
Loss of feeling in limbs, temporary paralysis
People who have a direct relative suffering from autoimmune disease are also requested to get the ANA test done if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are noticed. This test is also prescribed when symptoms of rheumatic diseases are noticed.
The body’s immune system produces antibodies to counter foreign antigens that can harm the body. Many blood tests for confirming viral or bacterial diseases look for antigens or antibodies to determine which disease is contracted.
In the case of autoimmune disease, the immune system considers the healthy cells of the body to be harmful antigens and thus, produces specific antibodies to counter these cells. This is why these antibodies are also known as anit-nuclear antibodies.
The presence of autoantibodies are also possible in people who are not suffering from the listed disorders. The presence of autoantibodies and having slightly elevated ANA levels are also seen in healthy individuals. Senior citizens too have tested positive for ANA. This is due to age. But, if the levels are higher than what can be considered as ‘traces’, it can indicate autoimmune disorder.
The autoimmune diseases that are usually counted under this test are:
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis
Mixed connective tissue disease
The anti-nuclear antibody or ANA test is done by checking a blood sample of the person. The test itself poses no risks, especially when done by an experienced phlebotomist. In terms of side effects, the process of drawing blood can cause slight discomfort and lead to the development of a bruise. People who are already anemic can feel dizzy and nauseous when the blood is taken. Rest and intaking vitamins will help treat these conditions.
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Autoimmune disorders are genetic in nature. While some are inherited, sometimes mutations due to medication or excessive substance abuse can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders.
Yes, Polyarteritis nodosa is an autoimmune disorder. This is a rare condition and in this disease, the blood vessels throughout the body start to swell up. This causes poor blood supply. When detected early, it is a treatable condition.
Lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs. This condition is more common in women. While it is genetically inherited, lupus can stay dormant, unless triggered by factors like sunlight or medications.
The anti-nuclear antibody test can yield either a positive or a negative result. A negative result means the person does not have the symptoms due to an autoimmune disease. This will lead to the doctors changing the prognosis and suggesting alternative tests.
A positive result would lead to the confirmation that the person is suffering from an autoimmune disorder. The exact disorder is confirmed with the help of an extractable nuclear antigen or ENA test.
In the case of a false-positive result, the symptoms and physical treatment are taken into consideration.
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