Five Common Causes for Positive ANA

First of all, what is an ANA test? What did your doctor think when ordering an ANA test? When they order an ANA test, most doctors are actually trying to screen you for autoimmune disease. 

ANA stands for “antinuclear antibodies.”

These antibodies appear in your bloodstream when your immune system is fighting something foreign, like viruses, bacteria, or medication. These antibodies target the cell’s nucleus; that is why they are called ANTINUCLEAR ANTIBODIES. Sometimes, the presence of these antibodies can signal the presence of an autoimmune disease. 

Let’s see what the most causes for a positive ANA are

1.Normal people -it is not uncommon to see a positive ANA test in normal people. Usually, advancing in age will expose your immune system to many challenges, from infections to medication, radiation, or pollution that can cause a positive ANA. However, keep in mind that the more symptoms you have, the higher the titer of your test, the more need to see a specialist you have.

2.Autoimmune diseases – A positive ANA test is often seen in patients with Lupus, Sjogren, scleroderma, inflammatory myositis, vasculitis and even rheumatoid arthritis. Besides, autoimmune thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis can also cause a positive ANA test. Remember, a positive ANA test does not mean that you have Lupus as Lupus without positive ANA is not Lupus!

3.Chronic Infections – Your immune system is constantly activated by a chronic infection such as tuberculosis, histoplasmosis or mononucleosis. That can cause a positive ANA test.

4.Malignancies – Patients suffering from lymphoma, solid organ malignancies can also have positive ANA tests. So if you have a history of cancer, that could explain a positive test. 

5.Medications – Many medications will be seen as foreign substances by your immune system. Many medications are notorious for causing positive ANA tests, and some can cause drug-induced Lupus. A few examples are hydralazine, hydrochlorothiazide, antibiotics (minocycline, isoniazid), methyldopa, procainamide.

 In our rheumatology service, we frequently see patients to evaluate them for a positive ANA. Not only can we review all your history thoroughly, but if needed, we can order additional tests to better understand your case. Here you will find a very helpful patient fact sheet. You have the option to schedule an appointment with our doctor today and start your journey toward a better life.


About the authors

Diana Girnita, MD, PhD is an US board certified internal medicine and rheumatology. She completed a PhD in immunology, postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, immunology fellowship at University of Pittsburgh and rheumatology fellowship at University of Cincinnati. She is the founder&CEO of Rheumatologist OnCall, a telemedicine company that serves multiple states in the US. Dr. Girnita is a graduate of the Nutrition Science course from Stanford University. Dr. Girnita was recognized many times with “Top Doctor”  award (2017-2020) and is frequently invited speaker of the US National Arthritis Foundation. Read more…

Aurelia Turca – is a third year medical student from University of Medicine and Pharmacy, “Gr. T. Popa” Iasi, Romania. She enjoys researching and writing medical content. Aurelia is an avid learner and her passion is microsurgery techniques. Her hobbies are painting, writing, reading and walking.

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