What is ANA?

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ANA is the acronym for Anti-Nuclear Antibodies. ANA refers to a test conducted to detect antinuclear antibodies in the blood. The immune system of a person generates antibodies that help fight infection. When antibodies identify foreign proteins that have infectious organisms within the system, they recruit cells and other proteins to fight the infection off. This attack is referred to as inflammation. On the other hand, antinuclear antibodies attack body tissues and often target the cell nucleus. When ANA tests turn positive, it is an indication that the immune system has put up a misdirected attack towards its own body tissues. This is often referred to as an auto-immune response. However, there are people who have a positive ANA result even when they are well. Most people have autoantibodies or ANAs in very small quantities. Where there are large quantities of autoantibodies, it is an indication that an autoimmune ailment is present. Where the doctor suspects that a patient has an auto-immune related disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma, he or she may recommend an ANA test.

Running Anti-Nuclear Anitbody Tests

There are different ways for running ANA tests. One of these is conducting a blood test known as the Fluorescent Anti-Nuclear Antibody test. This test involves placing fluorescent labeled antibodies on to a slide of glass and viewing them under a microscope. The intensity and pattern of the fluorescence is then determined. The other test involves screening for lupus. This is easy because the simplicity and sensitivity of ANA tests make it very popular to test for lupus. Since 95% of people with lupus often test positive for ANA, a negative outcome is very useful in eliminating that diagnosis. However, 11 to 13 percent of people with positive ANA results have lupus and 15 percent of people who are healthy test positive for ANA. This means that positive ANA results to not always translate to a lupus diagnosis, a connective or an autoimmune tissue disease.

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