Anti-Neutrophilic Cytoplasmic Antibodies, better known as ANCA's to those of us with diseases that have them. There are three different types of vasculitis that have these special little antibodies present, in most cases the presence of these are used as a diagnostic tool which helped save me from having a lung biopsy. These little buggers are also known as autoantibodies because they differ from regular, helpful antibodies. Bet you can't guess how they differ exactly.
Auto means self. So these autoantibodies do what regular antibodies do but against the self. Yes, if you have Wegner's, MPA (Microscopic Polyangitis) or Churg-Strauss Vasculitis your body has created antibodies just for the purpose of harming your own personal cells.
Of course, you could also have one of these diseases and not have these autoantibodies present. Is anyone else reminded of the Transformers? Autoantibodies, form up! No, wait, don't! I might die!
There are specific types of ANCAS associated with these different vasculitis types. Wegner's is a C-ANCA (80% of patients test positive. I test slightly positive, sometimes, when I'm not testing positive for a different ANCA). Oddly enough, Wegner's shares this ANCA with mad cow disease. At least, that's what I've heard. Wegner's can also test positive for a P-ANCA, the same ANCA associated with Lupus. Does this mean I'm a Lupy Cow instead of a Mad Cow?
Anways, these are the three types of vasculitis that are associated with ANCA so I figure that it would be a good place to start introducing the other 15 forms of vasculitis. Starting with MPA and then probably Churg-Strauss and moving on from there. I feel it is important to try to understand the different forms of vasculitis as a patient with Wegner's because it is A) possible to have more than one type of vasculitis B) having one autoimmune disorder makes you MORE likely to have another and C) while different, each type of vasculitis have their similarities.