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- Autoimmune diseases can be treated.
- A positive ANA test means autoantibodies are present. By itself, a positive ANA test does not indicate the presence of an autoimmune disease or the need for therapy.
- Some medications cause a positive ANA. Tell your doctor all prescription, over-the-counter and street drugs you take.
- ANA testing can produce a “false positive.” This typically signals the presence of antinuclear antibodies in a healthy individual.
- Talk to your doctor about a positive ANA and best next steps.
The immune system makes an abundance of proteins called antibodies. Antibodies are made by white blood cells (B cells). The antibodies recognize and combat infectious organisms (germs) in the body. Antibodies develop in our immune system to help the body fight infectious organisms. When an antibody recognizes the foreign proteins of an infectious organism, it recruits other proteins and cells to fight off the infection. This cascade of attack is called inflammation.
Sometimes these antibodies make a mistake, identifying normal, naturally-occurring proteins in our bodies as being “foreign” and dangerous. When these antibodies make incorrect calls, identifying a naturally-occurring protein (or self protein) as foreign, they are called autoantibodies. Autoantibodies start the cascade of inflammation, causing the body to attack itself. The antibodies that target “normal” proteins within the nucleus of a cell are called antinuclear antibodies (ANA). Most of us have autoantibodies, but typically in small amounts. The presence of large amount of autoantibodies or ANAs can indicate an autoimmune disease. ANAs could signal the body to begin attacking itself which can lead to autoimmune diseases, including lupus, scleroderma, Sjögren’s syndrome, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, mixed connective tissue disease, drug-induced lupus, and autoimmune hepatitis. A positive ANA can also be seen in juvenile arthritis.
Source: American College of Rheumatology
- Antiphospholipid antibodies are present in 15-20 percent of all cases of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and in one-third of new strokes occurring in people under the age of 50.
- Antiphospholipid antibodies are a major cause of recurrent miscarriages and pregnancy complications when no other causes are found.
- Diagnosis and treatment is very important. Once the disease is diagnosed, adequate therapy in most cases can prevent the recurrence of the symptoms.
- The mainstay of treatment is the prevention of blood clots through oral anticoagulation (blood thinning) or anti-platelet drugs.
- Risk factors for thrombosis must be addressed. These include diabetes; hypertension or high blood pressure; hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol; obesity; smoking; estrogen therapy for menopause or contraception; and any underlying systemic autoimmune disease.
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (commonly called antiphospholipid syndrome or APS) is an autoimmune disease present mostly in young women. Those with APS make abnormal proteins called antiphospholipid autoantibodies in the blood. This causes blood to flow improperly and can lead to dangerous clotting in arteries and veins, problems for a developing fetus and pregnancy miscarriage. People with this disorder may otherwise be healthy, or they also may suffer from an underlying disease, most frequently systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus or SLE).
APS affects women five times more commonly than men. It is typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 40. While up to 40 percent of patients with SLE will test positive for the anti-phospholipid autoantibodies, only half will develop thrombosis and/or experience miscarriages. Like most autoimmune disorders, APS has a genetic component, although there is not a direct transmission from parent to offspring.
Source: American College of Rheumatology