Quoting A, E & W's mommy:" So they just use the ANA to stop looking for autoimmune in people for whom it's negative. And if it's ... [snip!] ... along those lines, I just don't think it's lupus, I'm glad to hear that they won't necessarily assume that it would be lupus."
Exactly. The odds of having an autoimmune illness with a negative ANA is pretty low. It happens, but it's rare. So a negative ANA means they look at other things generally, especially if your symptoms don't fit exactly. Positive ANA means they look more at autoimmune. This can be lupus, mixed connective tissue disorder, things like that. Thyroid as well (which I have). There are more specific tests that look for lupus, but they usually run those after a postive ANA. For me I had a positive ANA, so they reran the ANA and added a lupus test. When the ANA came back pos again but the lupus negative, they ran one for a thyroid antibodies and also for a few others. Thyroid was positive, others were negative. But again, ANA can be positive in totally heealthy people too, or it can be positive in people who will later develop autoimmune issues.
It's a really long process because the tests can be really subjective. As of right now I'm diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and I have thyroid antibodies which will eventually mess with my thyroid, though they have not yet. lol. Also, I think I probably have celiac (given the other autoimmune probloms I'm having) but that isn't diagnosed. It could still just be a gluten intolerance.