Antinuclear Antibody Primer

MicroscopeOnce a patient is diagnosed with Raynaud’s, one of the first questions to address is “Is it primary or secondary?” –  is there an underlying autoimmune disorder?  To answer this question, one of the first tests a doctor (usually a rheumatologist) will run is an ANA (Antinuclear Antibody) blood test.

What is an ANA blood test, and what does it mean?  The American College of Rheumatology has published a Patient Education page that answers these and more questions, and we encourage Raynaud’s patients to become familiar with the information.

One important point:  A positive ANA reading does not necessarily mean a more serious autoimmune disease is present.  A good percentage of people (up to 15%) will test positive for the test, but have no underlying disorders.  For those over age 65, over a third of healthy patients may test positive.  It just means there’s reason to keep studying your condition.  The first test establishes a benchmark for trending over time, and to be consulted along with more blood tests, exams, and history of your symptoms.  It’s just one part of the process, but can flag the need for further analysis.

Being armed with the facts can help you ask the right questions.

American College of Rheumatology ANA Page