Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Autoimmune Antibodies Testing

Recently I learned that a close family member tested positive for a rare auto-antibody. An autoantibody is an antibody created by the immune system that is directed back at one (or more) of the individual’s proteins. Many autoimmune diseases are caused or influenced by auto-antibodies. In my relative’s case, this genetic quirk means they are at greater risk of a group of rare autoimmune conditions, such as a disease that attacks the lungs.

With my severe case of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune challenges, it seemed like a good idea for me to get tested. First, I believe there is a genetic component to my illness because autoimmune diseases run in the family. And second, I think it’s helpful to know possible risks so that I can monitor for symptoms of any new conditions and get immediate attention should they make an unwelcome appearance.

Testing for autoimmune antibodies

With these points in mind, I wrote to my doctor and asked to be tested because of my relative’s positive result. The doctor ordered an “ANA Comprehensive Panel” to test for a number of autoantibodies. The tests included auto-antibodies related to connective tissue diseases, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, skin diseases, and others.

While I was expecting several positive results (what a negative thinker I can be!), I was surprised that all of these specific auto-antibodies came back with a negative result. I was so glad that I asked, was tested, and now have this knowledge. It was just a part of my regular blood draw and the results came back within a few days.

Seronegative RA

Since I was diagnosed a long time ago, these tests were not a part of the process. In fact, I was only tested last year for rheumatoid factor because my rheumatologist was curious and I didn’t have any record of being tested. I’m one of the rare cases where I have a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis yet came back seronegative.

It’s an interesting question that Richard, my husband, posed: If a doctor just saw these blood test results would they even consider a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis? We don’t know because my joints so obviously are deformed from inflammation and decades of aggressive disease. But it is curious that I test negative for these indicators that are often used during diagnosis.

Sometimes I think my case is caused by a rare gene or autoimmune outlier. My hope for the future is that precision medicine will someday identify the magic trigger so that we can understand my specific case of RA better.

The recent research that indicates involvement of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) protein in juvenile idiopathic arthritis (or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), like I was diagnosed with at age two, suggests we’re getting closer to understanding specific RA variants. In fact, new research on drugs targeting IL-6 in JIA patients shows great results in blocking this protein and reducing symptoms.

In my opinion, every test contributes to our knowledge of RA, related autoimmune conditions, and our efforts towards improving treatment and quality of life. I look forward to continuing this experimental journey.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • amybeth
    6 months ago

    Hi Kelly, I’m seronegative also…but my doctor had me take the Vectra DA test and the results showed that I have high disease activity. It tested for IL-6 and others. My doctor always reminds me of those results when I feel like my sero-negative means no, I don’t really have RA. I have doctors that question my RA status because I don’t have the “right or qualifying” BW results (in their mind)! I usually explain that my husband had cancer, but was only confirmed when he had an X-ray and then biopsy. All his BW was normal, so it took his doc 4 months to order an X-ray.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks for making all these excellent points, amybeth. I’ve never had the Vectra test, but have been curious about it. In any case, glad that my doctors have accepted my RA diagnosis and supported treatment. It’s so true that every body is unique and some tests just don’t show the true nature of our illnesses. I guess this underscores the importance of listening to how we feel and pushing for answers even when the doctors are not seeing the cause. Take care. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    6 months ago

    Funny you should write this. The other day I was given a blood test for inflammation. It was sub normal level. I have less inflammation than 90% of the folks walking around.

    Oh course I had Rituxan 4 weeks weeks ago and I am expected to have less inflammation. This caused my doctor to say with a smile, I guess you are cured.

    Now he said, I know RItuxan is working. But we knew that already. Now if we could get it work for AS or longer than 3 months we would have something.

    Remission perhaps? More likely permission to remission he said. 🙂

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 months ago

    Love this Rick! Yes, the medication is doing the job but totally understand that it would be nice if it would work for longer. I like what your doc said about “permission to remission.” That’s the goal! Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Poll