C1 esterase inhibitor (C1-INH) is a protein found in the fluid part of your blood. It controls a protein called C1, which is part of the complement system. This system is a group of proteins that move freely through your bloodstream. The proteins work with your immune system and play a role in the development of inflammation. There are nine major complement proteins. They are labeled C1 through C9.
Complement factors are very important in testing for autoimmune diseases, especially systemic lupus erythematosus. Low levels of C1-INH can lead to a condition called angioedema. Angioedema results in sudden swelling of the tissues of the face, upper throat and tongue. It may also cause difficulty breathing. Swelling in the intestine and abdominal pain may also occur. There are two types of conditions that cause angioedema from decreased levels of C1-INH. They are known as hereditary and acquired C1-INH deficiency.
This article discusses the test that is done to measure the amount of C1-INH in your blood.
A blood sample is needed. This is most often taken through a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.
No special preparation is needed.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others may feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
You may need this test if you have signs of hereditary or acquired angioedema. Both forms of angioedema are caused by low levels of C1-INH.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Your health care provider will also measure the functional activity level of your C1 esterase inhibitor. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
Low levels of C1-INH may cause certain types of angioedema.
Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.