An anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody) is a blood test to assist in confirming the presence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As part of the diagnostic process, its elevated presence also may indicate an increased risk for the patient to incur joint damage from the RA. Blood tests for anti-CCP can show the presence of markers that identify the beginning of RA development. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical in reducing the advancement of rheumatoid arthritis.
Expect to have an anti-CCP test ordered along with the RF (rheumatoid factor) test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Some patients may have a negative RF test with clinical signs of RA. The anti-CCP is used to confirm the presence of RA before it has developed adequately to show positive in other tests.
Consider a positive anti-CCP blood test and a positive RF result a likely indication that rheumatoid arthritis is the appropriate diagnosis. A positive for both tests are an indication that a more severe form of RA may develop.
Take note that in a patient with positive anti-CCP, a negative RF and clinical signs of RA, the diagnosis will likely be RA. If the disease is not actively present at the time, it is probable that it will develop in the future.
Expect the doctor to rely more on symptoms and signs of rheumatoid arthritis for a diagnosis if the anti-CCP is negative and the RF is positive.
Find it less likely that rheumatoid arthritis is present when both the anti-CCP and RF are read as negative. Some patients, however, have a diagnosis of RA, even in the absence of positive auto-antibodies.
Use the results of the anti-CCP blood test to distinguish the type of arthritis. Other tests are available that indicate an autoimmune disease, but the anti-CCP is specific to identifying rheumatoid arthritis from conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and hepatitis C virus.
Consider low levels of anti-CCP to be less significant in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, unless the results are in conjunction with symptoms and complaints common to RA.
Patients with a positive read for the anti-CCP blood test, but no clinical manifestations, should be monitored carefully for developing signs of rheumatoid arthritis. According to the American College of Rheumatology, studies show that the anti-CCP will read positive several years before any symptoms of RA appear (see Resources below).