General considerations

 Cryoglobulin (CR) denotes a serum immunoglobulin that precipitates at temperatures below 37°C and dissolves on re-warming. CRs are heterogeneous in chemical composition and behave differently in vivo and in vitro. The majority are mixed antigen-antibody complexes that occur with high incidence in autoimmune and infectious disorders. Their measurement is important in the management of patients with vasculitis. CRs elicit variable symptoms in patients, mostly purpura, weakness, and arthralgias, and they require various methods of treatment. Sometimes CRs are not associated with any symptoms; but they can be associated with very severe conditions such as nephropathy and neuropathy. Treatment depends on the symptoms and causes, and on the phenotyping of the CR. Considering the high incidence of CR in diseases such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, together with the high worldwide prevalence of this disease, it is clear that testing for CR is underutilized in clinical practice. CR testing has been neglected in routine clinical laboratories and by clinicians due to several factors, such as the lengthy time for serum CR analysis and failure to appreciate that low levels of CR can be associated with severe symptoms.


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