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Everything You Need to Know About Endomysial Antibodies (EMA)

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Health and Wellness

There are many different types of substances in your body that are necessary to ensure its proper functioning. Some of these substances include hormones, enzymes, vitamins, blood products, micronutrients, and many others. These substances play a wide range of roles inside the body, and they all have to maintain a balance in order to keep you healthy.

Endomysial antibodies are a type of antibody that can be found in high concentrations if you have celiac disease. Read on to learn more about endomysial antibodies, what they mean, and when you should get tested for them.

What are antibodies?

As the Cleveland Clinic states, antibodies are a type of protein that is produced by your immune system, and they work by protecting you from different threats. When your immune system detects that an antigen, which is an unwanted substance, has entered your body, it releases antibodies that can attach themselves to the antigens produced by bacteria, viruses, funghi, and toxins, among other substances.

But in some cases, your immune system can malfunction and produce antibodies that attack your own organism. According to MedlinePlus, autoimmune disorders happen when your body is unable to distinguish between foreign, unwanted substances and your own body. As a result, it generates antibodies that harm normal tissues.

When people have celiac disease, their immune system produces antibodies in response to eating gluten. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, this disease usually affects people who have a genetic predisposition. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, and barley.

What are endomysial antibodies?

As their name suggests, endomysial antibodies are a type of antibody. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, patients with celiac disease release endomysial antibodies (EMA) when their bodies detect the presence of gluten. These antibodies harm intestinal tissue and cause it to swell.

As a result of this swelling, endomysial antibodies can make it difficult for your body to properly absorb the nutrients found in the food you consume. If left untreated, celiac disease and endomysial antibodies can result in chronic and long-lasting damage to your tissues and increase your risk of malnutrition.

It has been estimated that endomysial antibodies can be found in approximately 70 to 80% of all patients who have celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiforme (which is a skin symptom of celiac disease). EMA can also be found in practically all patients who have celiac disease and don’t follow a gluten-free diet.

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When should an endomysial antibodies test be made?

Your doctor could order an IgA anti-endomysial antibodies test if you have been showing signs of celiac disease but haven’t received a diagnosis yet. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, some of the most common signs of celiac disease can include:

  • Bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Loose, foul-smelling stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

It’s important to keep in mind that symptoms of celiac disease can vary from one person to the next, and you may not exhibit all these signs while still having celiac disease.

What do endomysial antibodies test results mean?

The normal result for an antiendomysial antibody test should be around 0 - 0.1 Units. However, you should keep in mind that these test results can vary depending on factors such as your age, gender, and medical history. Your doctor could order additional tests, including an anti-tTG test, which is also used to screen and diagnose celiac disease.

It’s important to discuss your anti-endomysium IgA results with your healthcare provider. Your physician will probably correlate your test results to the rest of your medical history, symptoms, and physical examination to provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. 

EMA tests should be negative in people without celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiforme. An endomysial antibodies test can also be used to monitor celiac disease. Someone with celiac disease who is following a strict gluten-free diet should also have a negative result, since there shouldn’t be any gluten for antibodies to react to.

However, a negative endomysial antibody IgA doesn’t entirely rule out a celiac disease diagnosis, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms that are consistent with this condition. The result of an IgA-EMA test can typically be correlated with the severity of the disease.

How to prepare for an endomysial antibodies test

Antiendomysial antibody tests are performed using a blood sample test. Fortunately, you don’t have to do a lot beforehand to prepare for this test. However, you will need to make sure that you’re following a diet that contains gluten for at least 4 weeks before taking the test. If you’re not eating gluten, your body won’t produce antibodies and the result may not be accurate.

You should also discuss any medications or supplements you’re taking with your healthcare provider before taking the test. This includes illegal substances and natural supplements, since some of them can alter test results.

According to the NHS, anti-endomysial antibodies test results can take approximately 5 to 7 days.

You can learn more about other health topics — including sex education, reproductive health, and at-home STD testing — at STDWatch.com.


Antibodies - my.clevelandclinic.org

Autoimmune disorders - medlineplus.gov

What is Celiac Disease? - celiac.org

Endomysial Antibody - urmc.rochester.edu

Symptoms & Causes of Celiac Disease - niddk.nih.gov

Anti-Endomysial Antibody (EMA) - southtees.nhs.uk

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dec 02, 2022

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