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Endomysial Antibody

Does this test have other names?

EMA test

What is this test?

This test looks for certain antibodies in your blood that may mean you have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease.

If you have celiac disease, your immune system responds abnormally to a protein called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye products. Your body makes antibodies to the gluten called endomysial antibodies (EMA). These autoantibodies cause intestinal swelling and, if undetected, can damage the intestinal walls, including the lining of your small intestine. They can also keep your body from fully absorbing nutrients from food. Chronic swelling and increasing damage to the small intestine leads to malnutrition, among other problems.

Why do I need this test?

You may have this test if your doctor suspects that you have celiac disease. Signs and symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Repeated abdominal (belly) pain and bloating

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Excessive intestinal gas

  • Weight loss

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Fatigue

  • Anemia

  • Mood disorders, including depression

  • Seizures

  • Itchy skin rash

  • Bone and joint pain

In children, signs and symptoms may also include:

  • Light colored, fatty stools

  • Vomiting

  • Irritability

  • Growth retardation

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order other blood tests to look for:

  • Anti-tissue transglutaminase, or tTG, antibodies

  • Anti-deaminated gliadin peptides

  • Blood cell counts

  • Cholesterol levels

  • Thyroid function

Your doctor may also test you for an immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency. If you have this deficiency, it will make it harder to get a clear result on your antibody test. Instead, the lab will use a different class of tests.

Your doctor may also order genetic testing. Genetic testing can't diagnose celiac disease, but it can determine that you don't have it.

If any of the tests show that you may have celiac disease, your doctor will most likely order a biopsy of your intestine to get a more complete picture of your condition.

In children younger than 2 years, the doctor may also order a test to look for anti-gliadin antibodies.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Normal results are negative, meaning that no EMA antibodies were found in your blood.

If your levels of IgA EMA and tTG antibodies are higher, it may mean that you have celiac disease. If you also have typical symptoms and respond to a gluten-free diet, you will likely be diagnosed with celiac disease.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Not eating gluten will affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You must be on a diet that contains gluten for at least four weeks before this test.