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All About Autoimmune Blood Tests

All About Autoimmune Blood Tests

If you have come across this page, either because you were looking for a firsthand experience advice or you’d just like to read more, you’ll learn all about what the blood tests mean when you are diagnosed with autoimmune condition and how each one works. Throughout my experience in the medical world, I’ve had to have a lot of blood tests, so I tried to find out everything I could about why I needed them and what each test meant. While medical books and sites do help in explaining, a lot of the time they use terms that we aren’t familiar with and don’t explain the relevancy to us in the moment. I still have that feeling of apprehension when I get them done, but as time goes by and if you educate yourself more about these tests, they can do a lot to help ease your fears in dealing with these chronic illnesses that are autoimmune related. Remember to always discuss you blood test results with your doctor at each appointment. Obviously I couldn’t include all the tests, there are a lot of others, some won’t apply to others and some will. The following are some that I regularly take and some of the more common tests I take that I found my other autoimmune buddies take too.

The most common autoimmune blood tests you will need to get regularly:

ESR  (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate): this is one of the most common tests that doctors will use to measure the level of inflammation in the body, in other words the activity level of your ongoing condition. It measures the viscosity  or rate at how fast your red blood cells cling together, to fall and settle (much like sediment) at the bottom of a test tube over an hour. A high ESR usually means inflammation is present and thus effecting your condition. However, the problem with these tests is that they don’t tell the doctor where the inflammation is occurring or why. The levels which are considered ‘normal’ for a female range between 0-20 and for males 0-15, if you have more don’t worry too much, I’ve seen levels that reach 90 and above and these are usually during major flare ups and can be levelled out in time with the correct medicine. Very high levels like the ones I experienced, are usually an indication that you may be experiencing vasculitis of some kind (an inflammation of the blood vessels). The ESR test is usually a marker that I tend to look for in tracking my progress on new and long term medication. But not all autoimmune conditions are the same so it’s always best to ask your doctor the relevance between ESR and your condition.

CBC/FBC (Complete Blood Count or Full Blood Count): this is one of the most, if not the most, common blood test that all of us have to take. It’s used to find out if you have any, if at all, problems in the body. This is found out by measuring the number of white (WBC) and red (RBC) blood cells, total amount of hemaglobin in your blood, the fraction of the blood composed of red blood cells (hematocrit) and the size of the red blood cells (MCV). All these tests are very important and will give your doctor a full picture of any inflammation or indicators about how your condition is. High levels in RBC can mean a number of things, it can mean dehydration, or kidney function response. Low levels in RBC can mean anaemia, which is a common symptom of autoimmune conditions. It can also be an indicator of deficiencies in vitamins needed by the body like Vitamin B. A lower than normal WBC can be due to the existing fact that you have an autoimmune or vascular disease such as lupus. High WBC in autoimmune patients paradoxically also can indicate that you have an ongoing autoimmune condition. When I talked to my doctor, I found out that RBC was a main indicator in the progress of my disease.

CRP (C-Reactive Protein): Elevated values are consistent with any inflammatory process that is happening in your body. By measure this special type of protein, the pathologist is able to see record inflammations in the body, but like ESR they are not able to be specific enough for any real diagnosis, this is why it is taken along with ESR tests, if they are both positive, then there is a greater chance that yes you have an ongoing autoimmune condition.

ANA (Antinuclear antibody) According to various sources (which have been referenced at the end of this blog for further reading) 95% of people diagnosed with SLE or Lupus have a positive ANA test. However, it has also been found that up to one in ten healthy people without any known autoimmune condition also test positive. The ANA test was one of the first tests I had to take, it is used a screener for autoimmune conditions and can help diagnose these further. There are many types of autoimmune conditions which I’ll talk about in my next health and fitness blog.

If you have just recently been diagnosed, it’s good to know that all these blood tests will be performed in one go, you only need one extraction and routine blood tests are usually scheduled monthly to quarterly of each year. Make sure you keep it up, since it will help give your doctors a better picture of your health. Don’t be afraid of these, as this is just one of the few procedures you’ll have to face if you have an autoimmune condition. Did you know that there are about 80 different kinds of autoimmune conditions? Some people don’t even know they have them. I’m here to tell you, that while the journey can be hard, you can make it, remain positive and know that there are alot of people out there who can give advice and a shoulder to lean on your hard days. In upcoming blogs I’ll be addressing the emotional toll that these conditions oppose on us, and how we can overcome them and continue to live a full life.

If you’d like to learn more about autoimmune conditions, I hope you’ll feel comfortable to follow my blog entries, and also look into joining online communities which have also provided alot of strength to me in hard times:

If you’d like to join a wonderful online community, join “Support for all autoimmune diseases” group, they can be found on google groups and on facebook. You’ll need to email first to be included, but they are always happy to welcome new members. Headed by an amazing woman named Angela, along with some amazing members with equally inspiring stories, you’ll find that you aren’t so alone after all 🙂

29 September 2011: It has been pointed out to me that I didn’t include others such as ANCA etc well I tested negative on them and don’t know much about them, if you have been given tests not on this page, try researching too, its fun to get to know more. Stay positive! 🙂
For more information and explanations about the various blood tests and what they mean, visit: the site has a wealth of information and is easy to navigate.


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