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Antinuclear Antibodies: About This Test

What is it?

An antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is a type of blood test. It measures the amount of certain types of autoantibodies in the blood. Autoantibodies are types of antibodies that target and react to your own body (called an autoimmune reaction).

Why is this test done?

An ANA test is done to help identify problems with the immune system, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Lupus.
  • Polymyositis.
  • Scleroderma.
  • Sjögren's syndrome.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • In general, you don't need to prepare before having this test. Your doctor may give you some specific instructions.

What happens during the test?

  • A health professional takes a sample of your blood.

What else should you know about the test?

  • Your results will include an explanation of what a "normal" result is. This is called a "reference range." It is just a guide. Your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed may still be normal for you.
  • Autoimmune diseases cannot be diagnosed by the results of the ANA test alone. Other tests are needed to help identify diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Some healthy people can have an increased amount of ANA in their blood. For instance, this can happen in some people with a family history of autoimmune disease. ANA levels can also increase as a person ages.

How long does the test take?

The test will take several minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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