Is an Antinuclear Antibody Panel?
Antibodies are proteins made by your immune system. They help
your body recognize and fight infections. Antibodies normally target harmful
substances, such as bacteria and viruses, by activating the immune system to get
rid of them.
Sometimes, however, antibodies mistakenly target your healthy
cells and tissues. This is known as an autoimmune response. Antibodies that attack
healthy proteins in the nucleus (brain) of your cells are called antinuclear
When the body receives signals to attack itself, autoimmune
diseases such as lupus
mixed connective tissue disease, and others can occur. Symptoms vary by disease,
but they may include rashes, swelling, arthritis, or fatigue.
While it’s normal to have some ANA, having too many of these
proteins will put you at an increased risk for developing an autoimmune disease,
such as lupus. An ANA panel helps determine the level of ANA in your blood. You
may have an autoimmune disorder if the level is too high.
Is an Antinuclear Antibody Panel Needed?
Your doctor will order an ANA panel if you show signs of an
autoimmune disorder. An ANA test can indicate that you have some type of
autoimmune condition, but it can’t diagnose you with a specific disorder. If your
test comes back positive, your doctor will need to do more specific and
detailed testing to determine which autoimmune disease is causing your
I Need to Prepare for the Test?
There is no preparation needed for the ANA panel. However, it’s
important to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements that you’re
taking, even over-the-counter ones. Some drugs can affect the accuracy of the
Can I Expect During the ANA Panel?
The ANA panel is similar to other blood tests. A phlebotomist
will tie an elastic band around your upper arm so your veins swell with blood.
This makes it easier for them to find a vein. After cleaning the site with an
antiseptic, they’ll insert a needle into a vein. You might feel some moderate pain
when the needle goes in, but the test itself isn’t painful. Blood is then
collected in a tube attached to the needle. Once the blood is collected, the phlebotomist
will remove the needle from your vein and cover the puncture site.
In infants or children, a lancet (small scalpel) may be used to
puncture the skin, and blood may be collected in a small tube called a pipette.
It may also be collected on a test strip.
The blood is then sent to a lab for examination.
There Any Risks with the Test?
The risks of doing an ANA panel are minimal. People with veins
that are harder to access may experience more discomfort than others during the
blood test. Other risks can include:
- excessive bleeding
- infection at the puncture site
- hematoma (blood building up under the skin)
A negative test means that an active autoimmune disease is
A positive ANA test means that you have high levels of ANA in
your blood. However, this doesn’t mean that you have an autoimmune disease. Up
percent of completely healthy people have a positive ANA test. This is
called a “false-positive” test result.
A positive ANA test alone can’t diagnose a specific disease.
However, some conditions that are associated with a positive ANA test include:
lupus erythematosus (lupus): an autoimmune disorder that can affect
different parts of your body, including the heart, digestive tract, and skin
- chronic liver disease
(cirrhosis): scarring of the liver, which is most commonly caused by alcohol
abuse and viral infections
arthritis: an autoimmune disorder that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness
in the joints
- Sjögren syndrome:
an autoimmune disorder that affects the salivary and lacrimal glands, which
produce saliva and tears
- scleroderma: an
autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the skin and other connective
disease: a range of conditions can affect your thyroid, including
hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
- temporal arteritis:
a disorder, likely caused by an autoimmune response, in which the arteries
supplying blood to the head and brain become damaged
Labs can differ in their standards for a positive test. Talk with
your doctor about what your levels mean and how your symptoms may be explained
by the presence of ANA. If your ANA test comes back positive, your doctor will need
to run more tests in order to give you a diagnosis.
The ANA test is especially helpful in diagnosing lupus. More than
percent of people with lupus will test positive. However, not everyone that
tests positive for ANA has lupus — and not everyone with lupus tests positive
for ANA. Therefore, the test can’t be used as the only method of diagnosis.
Speak with your doctor about additional tests that can be done to
determine the underlying cause of increased ANA in your blood.