What is an ANA (antinuclear antibody) test?
An ANA test looks for antinuclear antibodies in your blood. If the test finds antinuclear antibodies in your blood, it may mean you have an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder causes your immune system to attack your own cells, tissues, and/or organs by mistake. These disorders can cause serious health problems.
Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to fight foreign substances like viruses and bacteria. But an antinuclear antibody attacks your own healthy cells instead. It's called "antinuclear" because it targets the nucleus (center) of the cells.
antinuclear antibody panel, fluorescent antinuclear antibody, FANA, ANA
What is it used for?
An ANA test is used to help diagnose autoimmune disorders, including:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This is the most common type of lupus, a chronic disease affecting multiple parts of the body, including the joints, blood vessels, kidneys, and brain.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that causes pain and swelling of the joints, mostly in the hands and feet
- Scleroderma, a rare disease affecting the skin, joints, and blood vessels
- Sjogren's syndrome, a rare disease affecting the body's moisture-making glands
Why do I need an ANA test?
Your health care provider may order an ANA test if you have symptoms of lupus or another autoimmune disorder. These symptoms include:
- Red, butterfly-shaped rash (a symptom of lupus)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Muscle pain
What happens during an ANA test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparations for an ANA test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruise at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.