Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA)

Fast Facts

  • Autoimmune diseases can be treated.
  • A positive ANA test means autoantibodies are present. By itself, a positive ANA test does not indicate the presence of an autoimmune disease or the need for therapy.
  • Some medications cause a positive ANA. Tell your doctor all prescription, over the counter, street drugs and supplements you take.
  • ANA testing can produce a positive result without any actual disease process. This typically signals the presence of antinuclear antibodies in a healthy individual.
  • Talk to your doctor about a positive ANA and the best next steps for further evaluation.

The immune system makes an abundance of proteins called antibodies. Antibodies are made by white blood cells (B cells). The antibodies recognize and combat infectious organisms (germs) in the body. Antibodies develop in our immune system to help the body fight infectious organisms. When an antibody recognizes the foreign proteins of an infectious organism, it recruits other proteins and cells to fight off the infection. This cascade of attack is called inflammation.

Sometimes these antibodies make a mistake, identifying normal, naturally occurring proteins in our bodies as being "foreign" and dangerous. When these antibodies make incorrect calls, identifying a naturally occurring protein (or self-protein) as foreign, they are called autoantibodies. Autoantibodies start the cascade of inflammation, causing the body to attack itself. The antibodies that target "normal" proteins within the nucleus of a cell are called antinuclear antibodies (ANA). Most of us have autoantibodies, but typically in small amounts. The presence of a large number of autoantibodies or ANAs can indicate an autoimmune disease. ANAs could signal the body to begin attacking itself which can lead to autoimmune diseases, including lupus, scleroderma, Sjögren’s syndrome, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, mixed connective tissue disease, drug-induced lupus, hashimoto thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune hepatitis. A positive ANA can also be seen in juvenile arthritis.

How do you Test for Antinuclear Antibodies?

How are FANA Levels Measured?

What does a Positive ANA Reading Mean?

How Should I Handle a Positive ANA Reading?

Updated December 2021 by the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Communications and Marketing.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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