Hypocomplementemia is an important marker for the presence of IC-mediated disease and can be used to assess disease activity. However, in interpreting the clinical significance of hypocomplementemia, the following must be kept in mind: 1) There are numerous non-immunologic conditions that also can cause hypocomplementemia. Furthermore, some of these conditions can cause a multisystem disease that, along with the hypocomplementemia, can closely resemble an IC-mediated systemic vasculitis. Furthermore, these nonimmunologic conditions that lower serum complement levels can complicate the course of patients with inactive IC-mediated disease, spuriously indicating that the disease is active. The most relevant of these differential diagnostic problems are listed in Table 2. 2) There are a few conditions (for example, pregnancy) that can raise serum complement levels, thereby possibly obscuring the presence of a disorder (such as, active SLE) that is lowering complement levels. 3) There are some conditions that might be expected to lower serum complement levels, because of their effect on protein metabolism, but do not. Nephrotic syndrome, and moderately poor nutrition are examples. All of these factors should be considered when interpreting results of serum complement levels in a given patient.
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