ANA Test: Is Your Body Attacking Itself?
Not So Friendly Fire. When your body starts attacking itself, you experience what's called an autoimmune reaction. Under certain conditions, your immune system, designed to protect and heal you from infection and injury, can turn on itself, targeting your own organs or tissues and causing autoimmune illness. Autoimmune illness affects 1 in 15 Americans, occurs more commonly in women than in men, and can affect your nervous system, joints & muscles, skin, digestive tract, as well as other areas of your body.
Are Your Symptoms Due to Friendly Fire?
Some of the most common symptoms of an autoimmune illness can be mistaken for other diseases. The most common autoimmune symptoms include:
Muscle aches & pains or weakness; joint stiffness & inflammation
Bloating, constipation, nausea, acid reflux & abdominal pain
Skin rashes, itching, dry skin and eyes, dry mouth, hair loss
Dizziness, headaches/migraines, numbness & tingling, memory issues
Fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes
Rapid heart rate, shortness of breath
Intolerance to heat or cold
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to let your healthcare provider know so that he or she can evaluate your symptoms in light of a complete health history and physical exam. Some autoimmune illnesses are genetic, so it's important to let your healthcare provider know about your family's health history.
ANA Antibody Test: What it Tells You
The ANA antibody test is a blood test to detect the presence of antibodies to your own tissue. It's a general marker that tells you whether or not your body is attacking itself. A positive ANA result indicates an autoimmune reaction is occurring and will prompt your healthcare provider to do further tests to identify the target of the autoimmune response. Even if your symptoms are currently mild, they can progress. In addition, once you've had an autoimmune illness, you're at risk for developing other autoimmune illnesses.
Additional diagnostic testing is important due to the fact that in certain individuals, a positive ANA antibody result is associated with other illnesses such as infection, liver disease, and cancer.
Positive ANA Antibody Test: What You Can Do to Address It
If you've had a positive ANA test result, there are steps you can take to effectively address it and uncover the root cause. While you cannot be "cured" from autoimmune illness, you can recover from it and lead a normal life. The functional medicine approach focuses on identifying what factors led your body to turn on itself. Once the underlying cause is known, a combination of targeted nutritional supplements, a customized diet, and other lifestyle changes can restore health to your body and lower your risk of additional autoimmune illnesses.
Interested in learning more about autoimmune illness and how you can determine if your symptoms are related to it?
Dinse, GE et al.Increasing Prevalence of Antinuclear Antibodies in the United States. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2020 Jun;72(6):1026-1035.
Grygiel-Gorniak, B et al. Antinuclear antibodies in healthy people and non-rheumatic diseases – diagnostic and clinical implications. Reumatologia. 2018; 56(4): 243–248.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord, Massachusetts ~