Hypocomplementemic urticarial vasculitis syndrome. Clinical and serologic findings in 18 patients

Medicine (Baltimore). 1995 Jan;74(1):24-41. doi: 10.1097/00005792-199501000-00003.


We identify and describe clinical findings in hypocomplementemic urticarial vasculitis syndrome (HUVS), an uncommon to rare illness related to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A patient with recurrent, idiopathic urticaria-like lesions was diagnosed as having HUVS if a lesional biopsy showed leukocytoclastic vasculitis, the serum C1q was markedly decreased, and antibody to C1q was detected in the patient's serum. The clinical characteristics, serologic findings, and outcome of patients who met these criteria were determined from prospective and retrospective data, including hospital and office records, patient interviews, previously banked serum samples, and freshly drawn sera. Eighteen patients with HUVS were identified, and high incidences of angioedema, ocular inflammation, glomerulonephritis, and obstructive pulmonary disease were found. Renal and lung biopsies showed mesangial or membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis and severe pulmonary emphysema without vasculitis. Pulmonary function was measured in 17 patients, 11 of whom had dyspnea. All dyspneic patients had moderate to severe airflow obstruction, which progressed in all 11 and subsequently improved in only 1. Six of these 11 patients died of respiratory failure, 1 underwent lung transplantation, and 3 of the remaining 4 have moderately severe to life-threatening respiratory insufficiency. Treatment did not appear to alter the progression of obstructive lung disease. In contrast, renal insufficiency improved with treatment in 2 of 2 patients. Angioedema, ocular inflammation, obstructive lung disease, and glomerulonephritis appear to be common in HUVS, and lung disease causes substantial morbidity and mortality. The pathogenesis of HUVS may involve humoral autoimmunity, although it is not clear how autoimmunity would participate in development of obstructive lung disease. Cigarette smoking appears to be a risk factor for fatal lung disease in HUVS. All patients with HUVS should be made aware of this possibility and should be advised, encouraged, and helped to avoid tobacco smoke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Complement System Proteins / analysis
  • Complement System Proteins / deficiency*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Syndrome
  • Urticaria* / diagnosis
  • Urticaria* / immunology
  • Vasculitis* / diagnosis
  • Vasculitis* / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Complement System Proteins