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Lupus

Positive ANA results--What could it mean?

03/27/2000

Question:

I have had some troubling symptoms for three years. Spontaneuous swelling in various parts of my body (feet, hands). My own family doctor has tested me for a variety of things, arthritis, lupus, even lyme disease. Nothing was ever found. I was referred to an allegist for testing, and again, nothing was found. Yet the symptoms persist and are becoming more frequent. When I first complained of these strange symptoms three years ago, they were very infrequent. (one every three or four months.) Also in the last three months I have had two two week periods of urticaria. I was given a shot, I`m not sure what it was, which the doctor said should take care of the hives for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Less than a week after receiving the shot, I developed two red patches of skin on my right forearm. they din`t look like the hives I had been experiencing. They felt like a scrape and if you pressed on them there was a dull ache like a bruise. The doctor said this looked systemic and requested the ANA blood test be done to see if I had some sort of connective tissue disease. I had positive, speckled results. She has referred me to a rheumatologist. What might these positive results indicate? Could the swellings and hives be related symptoms or am I dealing with two different things? I`m not asking for a diagnosis, only a rundown of what the different possibilities are in a positive ANA result.(I do plan to follow up with a rheumatologist.)

Answer:

ANAs are antibodies that are associated with a large number of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases. They can occur as a result of taking certain medications. They are also present in up to 15% of normal individuals. The speckled pattern is the most common and least specific. It is difficult to say whether your ANA positive test is related to your other problems based on the information you provided but the rheumatologist should be able to help you with this.

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Response by:

Anne-Barbara Mongey, MD
Formerly, Director, Arthritis Clinic, Univerity Hospital
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati