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The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) are a group of antibodies produced by a person's immune system when it fails to adequately distinguish between "self" and "nonself." These antibodies, known as autoantibodies, attack the body's own healthy cells and cause signs and symptoms such as tissue and organ inflammation, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue. ANA specifically target substances found in the nucleus of a cell, hence the name "antinuclear." The ANA test identifies the presence of these autoantibodies in the blood.
The presence of ANA may be a marker of an autoimmune process and is associated with several autoimmune disorders but is most commonly seen with the autoimmune disorder systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
The ANA test is one of the primary tests for helping to diagnose a suspected autoimmune disorder or ruling out other conditions with similar signs and symptoms. As such, it is often followed by other tests for autoantibodies that may help to establish a diagnosis. These may include, for example, an ENA panel, anti-dsDNA, anti-centromere and/or anti-histone test.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.