If you’ve recently received a positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) result, please read the following FAQ from our rheumatology experts.

It’s important to know that a positive ANA test is not a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. If you have requested bloodwork or been referred to us, we will review your available medical record and ask to evaluate you in-person or via telehealth. During this initial visit, a member of our team will review symptoms and will ask a series of questions to determine if you have a rheumatic condition.

What is an antinuclear antibody (ANA) test?

An ANA test is a blood exam to look for antibodies, produced by your immune system, that attack healthy cell nuclei (antinuclear) rather than foreign bacteria or viruses. It can also be called a functional antinuclear antibody (FANA) test. ANA tests are done as part of the screening process for autoimmune disease but does not indicate a specific diagnosis.

What does a positive ANA test result mean?

A positive ANA result suggests that your immune system is overactive. It is not a diagnosis of any specific condition, and one out of every six otherwise healthy people can have an overactive immune system.

What does it mean to have an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease occurs when a person’s immune system, instead of fighting off infections, decides to attack their own body. It is a broad category of conditions that can be present in different areas of the body. Examples include asthma, Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Does a positive ANA test mean I have an autoimmune disease?

No. A positive ANA test may be seen in healthy people, or in a variety of conditions that are not autoimmune diseases. Most people who have a positive ANA do not have a rheumatology condition. Sometimes more specific testing is required to find the cause of the positive ANA test but very often no cause is found.

Can I lower my ANA level?

There is no specific treatment for a positive ANA because it is not diagnostic of any specific disease or condition. Talk with your doctor about whether certain lifestyle changes can help, such as regular exercise, good sleep and reducing or quitting tobacco and alcohol use.

Why did my doctor recommend I see a rheumatologist?

Rheumatologists specialize in arthritis and in autoimmune diseases. Primary care doctors may ask a rheumatologist to help determine whether a patient may have an autoimmune disease such as lupus.