The ANCA blood test is used to help detect and potentially diagnose certain health issues. The test searches for antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies that form under certain circumstances. It is often ordered to help a medical provider discover if an inflammatory bowel condition is either Crohn disease or ulcertative colitis. This test can also be used to diagnose some types of autoimmune vasculitis and similar conditions.
This test may also be ordered to monitor the health status of an individual who has already been diagnosed with one of these conditions. It is an effective test because the antibodies that are detected are attacking proteins within a person’s white blood cells because they’ve been mistakenly identified as invaders.
It may be ordered on its own or in conjunction with two other common tests: the MPO blood test and the PR3 blood test.
When To See a Doctor About the ANCA Blood Test
If a patient is experiencing the signs and symptoms of an autoimmune vasculitis disorder, then a visit to a doctor may be necessary. Some of the initial symptoms of this health condition can be difficult to distinguish from common ailments, however, so early interventions are often difficult to implement. A fever, ongoing fatigue, and aching joints are common early development symptoms.
As the autoimmune disease progresses, damage to tissues and organs may occur and cause additional bothersome symptoms. This may include itchy red eyes, hearing changes, a runny nose that doesn’t go away, skin rashes, chronic coughing, a shortness of breath, or foamy urine that indicates the presence of protein.
The ANCA blood test is also ordered when a patient has the signs and symptoms of an inflammatory bowel disease. The most common complaint in this area is abdominal cramping and pain that occurs after eating, but may also include a fever and ongoing fatigue. Rectal bleeding and diarrhea are also fairly common. Some children may experience delays in hitting their growth targets. Some individuals will also develop symptoms in their joints, skin, or organs.
What Do the Test Results Mean?
The ANCA blood test results are usually communicated in a positive or negative language. If the test results are negative, then it typically means there isn’t an inflammatory bowel condition or an autoimmune disease causing the bothersome signs and symptoms. If the medical provider suspects that the test results are a false negative, the ANCA test may be ordered again or a biopsy may be requested to confirm the negative result.
It is possible for someone to have ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, or another inflammatory bowel condition and test negative on the ANCA blood test.
If the test results are positive, then a biopsy may still be ordered to confirm a diagnosis. An additional test to measure the actual amount of the antibodies present will also be ordered after the positive test results. Although ANCA levels can vary over time, they will always be present once they are created, so a positive test will always remain positive.
Answers to Common Questions About the ANCA Blood Test
The ANCA blood test requires specific equipment to generate results. Many hospitals are equipped with these tools, but for some people, this may mean a delay in test results as the blood draw would need to be shipped to that laboratory.
Not everyone will need to have this blood test ordered for them. It is not a component of an annual physical exam. Only when there is a systemic vasculitis issue or an inflammatory bowel condition suspected will the ANCA test provide information that is needed.
Certain conditions can cause a positive ANCA blood test result. The most common health issue is rheumatoid arthritis, but having systemic lupus, an autoimmune type of hepatitis, or an infection of the heart muscle can also produce positive test results. Certain respiratory issues and infections may also provide a false positive.
The ANCA blood test will be positive whenever there is an autoimmune disorder that affects the blood vessels. That’s why this test is such an effective screening tool for medical providers to use today. Even if the size of the blood vessels affected is small, the results from the test can help to provide a diagnosis so that a treatment plan can be started.
If the signs and symptoms listed here are being experienced, then schedule an appointment right away to discuss the pros and cons of the ANCA blood test. This way the underlying condition can be treated instead of the symptoms so that better health can potentially be obtained.