The ANA (Antinuclear Antibody) or FANA (fluorescent Antinuclear Antibody) test is conducted as a routine part of autoimmune disease diagnosis, through a simple blood sample.
The body’s immune system is composed of protein-based antibodies which fight infection caused by germs, viruses and bacteria. However, the body’s immunity is compromised when its cells, tissues and organs are attacked by its own immune system mistakenly (called Autoimmune Disorder). This attack of autoantibodies or antinuclear antibodies (referred to as antinuclear because they target the nucleus of a cell) on the body’s own immune system, results in a variety of health problems.
Autoimmune diseases usually manifest as the following symptoms and your doctor may recommend an ANA test to rule them out:
- Recurring or persistent fever;
- Stiffness, pain and swelling in joints and muscles;
- Hair loss;
- Numbness and/or tingling in hands and feet;
- Sensitivity to light.
However, a positive ANA test does not necessarily mean that you have an autoimmune disorder, as sometimes women over 65 years also test positive for ANA. People with some types of cancers and diseases like Thyroid (Hashimoto’s, Grave’s), juvenile chronic arthritis, Polyarteritis Nodosa, liver diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and lung diseases, as well as the use of several medicines (like drugs for blood pressure and seizures) and vitamin supplements, also show a positive result for ANA.
Also, a negative result of ANA test does not always necessarily mean that the person has no autoimmune disorder.
Some autoimmune diseases are as follows:
- Systemic Lupus: a chronic disease which affects multiple organs of the body, like kidneys, brain, joints, muscles, skin and blood vessels, among others.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: a chronic and painful disease that damages and degenerates and deforms bones and joints.
- Scleroderma: a combination of chronic disease causing the hardening and discolouration of skin, and painful joints, usually affecting women between 30-50 years.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome: a chronic disorder that often occurs with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, it affects the saliva and tear ducts and causes dry eyes and mouth.
- Polymyositis: a chronic disease of the muscles and tissues (also called inflammatory myopathy), causing weakness and pain in muscles and related tissues, and inflamed blood vessels.
- Dermatomyositis: a chronic muscle and skin disease, characterised by skin rashes and muscle weakness and pain.
- Mixed connective tissue disease (a combination of Lupus, Polymyositis and Scleroderma): a chronic disease that damages muscle and tissue fibers and skin, causing weak painful and soreness in muscles.
- Autoimmune Hepatitis: a chronic disease, causing liver inflammation and damage, and if untreated, can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.