Rheumatic diseases are caused by autoimmunity where the immune system attacks and damages healthy cells and tissues. One such common condition is rheumatic arthritis affecting the joints of our body. Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, and a physician specialized in this field is called a rheumatologist. Besides, one of the important preliminary tests for rheumatic diseases is the Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA) test. In this article, we will discuss the importance of Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA) in rheumatology.
Introduction To Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA)
Most of the autoimmune conditions like rheumatology diseases can be treated. One of the important tests to determine the presence of autoantibodies is the ANA test, and a positive result does not mean there is an autoimmune disease or the need for a therapy. Also, some medicines or compounds can result in a positive ANA test. However, sometimes the test can give positive results without any autoimmune disease, signaling the presence of antinuclear antibodies in healthy individuals.
The Immune System And Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA)
Our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from infectious pathogens or germs. These are also called immunoglobins, and they are Y shaped protein molecules. When a pathogen or foreign body enters our body, the antibody recognizes it through its unique molecule called antigen through the antigen-binding site. In this way, it tags the microbe or pathogen, and the immune system attacks and destroys it, and this cascade of attack results in inflammation.
However, in some people, the antibodies misidentify the proteins of healthy cells of the body, also known as self-proteins, as harmful foreign bodies. This type of faulty antibodies are called autoantibodies, and those that target the proteins within the cells of the nucleus are called Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA). Understand that most of us produce ANA, but in smaller quantities. In autoimmune diseases like rheumatism, lupus, polymyositis, etc., the body produces large amounts of autoantibodies (ANA).
Testing For Antinuclear Antibodies (ANAs)
There are multiple ways to test Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA), and one of the methods is Fluorescent Antinuclear Antibody (FANA) test. In this method, fluorescent-labeled antibodies are observed under the microscope to determine the pattern and intensity of fluorescence. ANA test is a popular preliminary test to identify autoimmunity because of its simplicity and sensitivity.
A positive ANA test tells the physician to investigate further for any kind of autoimmune disease. There are other specific tests as well, the results are combined to arrive at the diagnosis to determine the type of autoimmune disease, and this holds for rheumatic diseases as well.
We hope that the details shared above gave you a better understanding of Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA), and their importance in rheumatology.