What is Cryoglobulinemia?

Cryoglobulinemia is a type of blood vessel inflammation disease (vasculitis) indicating the presence of cryoglobulins in the blood’s serum. Cryoglobulins are proteins that thicken and can become insoluble at colder temperatures. Cryoglobulinemia can be defined as an immune system dysfunction.

Cryoglobulinemia development can be a result of many different things, which means that several different factors such as environmental and family history, and other potential health problems concerning the immune system can result in development of the disorder. Studies have yet to conclusively identify the absolute main factors resulting in diagnosis of the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Cryoglobulinemia?

Some of the symptoms of Cryoglobulinemia include:

  • Very bright red circles on the skin
  • Headaches
  • Itching, which can be very painful
  • Skin color changes
  • Numbness and burning pain
  • Open sores
  • Chest pain
  • Swollen legs
  • Trouble breathing

Cryoglobulinemia Causes

Cryoglobulinemia is a condition that is caused by abnormal blood proteins which form clumps. These protein clumps then block the flow of blood, causing many different symptoms and problems within the circulatory system.

The organ, tissue, nerve and joint damage caused by these protein clumps often come from having too much cryoglobulin in the blood. They can also be caused by some blood cell cancers, by an infection such as hepatitis C, or by some connective tissue diseases.

A number of autoimmune diseases are related to this condition and could affect the way it begins and progresses. It is also related to leukemia, mycoplasma pneumonia, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid disease and multiple myeloma. Though the exact mechanism of developing this condition is not well understood, it is possible that these diseases may influence its development.

Today, the exact cause of Cryoglobulinemia is thought to vary from patient to patient with many factors being possible in its development.

How is Cryoglobulinemia Treated?

The treatment of Cryoglobulinemia will likely require coordination from a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare specialists. A dedicated treatment plan must be considered in order to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. Prescription immunosuppressive medications may be required in diagnosed patients where vital organs are affected. With these types of drugs, the patient must be monitored closely in the event any new symptoms appear that may be connected to more serious illness, and further compromise of the immune system.

If a patient is not treated as early as possible for Cryoglobulinemia, it can result in serious and even fatal consequences. Anyone with a family history of Cryoglobulinemia or any blood vasculitis disorder is encouraged to speak to their healthcare provider for further information.

Cryoglobulinemia Prevention

Because the exact nature of its development is not known, there is currently no way to prevent a patient from developing cryoglobulinemia. However, it is known that the abnormal proteins that are behind this condition get thicker in cold temperatures, and this makes it more likely to block blood vessels and cause inflammation to various points of the body.

As a result, patients who have diseases such as hepatitis C, leukemia, multiple myeloma, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases related to cryoglobulinemia should avoid cold temperatures in order to stop the abnormal proteins in the blood from becoming gel-like. The clumping of the proteins is the main danger of this condition, and avoiding the cold can keep the blood running more efficiently in these cases. Staying in warm temperatures could prevent some of the damage caused by this condition and perhaps even keep the condition at bay.

Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 11, 2017
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