Cryoglobulinaemia refers to the serum presence of cryoglobulins, which are defined as immunoglobulins that precipitate at temperatures <37 °C. Type I cryoglobulinaemia consists of only one isotype or subclass of monoclonal immunoglobulin, whereas type II and type III are classified as mixed cryoglobulinaemia because they include immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM. Many lymphoproliferative, infectious and autoimmune disorders have been associated with mixed cryoglobulinaemia; however, hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the aetiologic agent in most patients. The underlying mechanism of the disorder is B cell lymphoproliferation and autoantibody production. Mixed cryoglobulinaemia can cause systemic vasculitis, with manifestations ranging from purpura, arthralgia and weakness to more serious lesions with skin ulcers, neurological and renal involvement. This Primer focuses on mixed cryoglobulinaemia, which has a variable course and a prognosis that is primarily influenced by vasculitis-associated multiorgan damage. In addition, the underlying associated disease in itself may cause considerable mortality and morbidity. Treatment of cryoglobulinaemic vasculitis should be modulated according to the underlying associated disease and the severity of organ involvement and relies on antiviral treatment (for HCV infection), immunosuppression and immunotherapy, particularly anti-CD20 B cell depletion therapies.
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