WellSpan Home

Health Library

Antinuclear Antibody

Does this test have other names?

ANA, fluorescent antinuclear antibody test, FANA

What is this test?

This blood test is done to help your health care provider find out if you have an autoimmune disease. Your immune system is your body's defense system. It protects you against foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. In some cases, your immune system can become confused. It can think that normal cells in your body are foreign invaders. When that happens, your body can make proteins called antibodies that attack your own cells.

When antibodies attack cells in your body, they cause swelling and redness known as inflammation. Antinuclear antibodies attack normal proteins in the center structure (nucleus) of your body's cells. Antinuclear antibodies are found in many autoimmune diseases. These include lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Why do I need this test?

Your health care provider may order this test if you have symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Common symptoms of autoimmune diseases that may stem from antinuclear antibodies include:

  • Fever

  • Joint pain

  • Weight loss

  • Skin rash

  • Tiredness

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Finding antinuclear antibodies in your blood tells your health care provider only that you may have an autoimmune disease. It doesn't tell him or her which disease you have. Your provider may order other tests depending on your symptoms and your physical exam. 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

A positive test for ANA does not mean you have an autoimmune disease. The test finds small amounts of these antibodies in up to 15% of healthy people. Antinuclear antibodies are measured in titers. A titer above 1:160 is a positive test result. A positive result may mean:

  • You have systemic lupus erythematosis, or SLE. About 95% of people with this autoimmune disease test positive for antinuclear antibodies.

  • You have another type of autoimmune disease.

  • You have a short-term condition, like an infection, that's causing your antinuclear antibodies to go up.

  • You are one of the 15% of normal people who have positive antinuclear antibodies without any disease.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries small risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, and a sense of lightheadedness. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore.

What might affect my test results?

Many conditions can trigger a positive antinuclear antibody test even without an autoimmune disease. Conditions that may cause a "false positive" test include:

  • Being older than 65

  • Having cancer

  • Taking certain medicines

  • Having a viral infection

  • Having a long-term infection

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need any special preparation for this test. Tell your health care provider whether you have had any recent or long-term infections. Also, let your provider know about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, herbs, and supplements. 

Antinuclear Antibody - WellSpan Health

Author: Iliades, Chris, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2015-05-25T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-07-27T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-07-27T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2012-04-03T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.