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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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What is the difference between cryoglobulinemia and cold agglutinin disease?

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What is cryoglobulinemia?

Cryoglobulinemia is a condition that can affect blood vessels throughout the body. This condition is caused by the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood called cryoglobulins. These abnormal proteins become solid in cold temperatures and block blood flow. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, tiredness, glomerulonephritis, joint and muscle pain, purpura, Raynaud's phenomenon, skin ulcers, and skin death.[1]
Last updated: 1/23/2012

What is cold agglutinin disease?

Cold agglutinin disease (CAD) is a rare form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. In this condition, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the body's own red blood cells. This causes the blood cells to die prematurely (hemolysis).[2][3] Symptoms may include pallor and fatigue; back and leg pain; headache; vomiting; diarrhea; and dark urine. CAD gets its name from the fact that the antibodies react at temperatures below 37ºC, so a cold environment may trigger the condition or make it worse. It can be primary (idiopathic) or secondary, due to an underlying condition such as an infection, another autoimmune disease, or certain cancers.[2][3] Treatment often involves avoidance of cold temperatures.[4]
Last updated: 3/11/2014

What is the difference between cryoglobulinemia and cold agglutinin disease?

Cryoglobulinemia and cold agglutinin disease are two separate conditions in which blood vessels may become blocked.  These two conditions include some similar symptoms, such as Raynaud's phenomenon, and symptoms worsen in cold temperatures.  These two conditions differ in the process by which blood vessels become blocked.  In cryoglobulinemia, it is antibodies that accumulate to block blood vessels.[1]  Whereas in cold agglutinin disease, antibodies (different from those in cryoglobulinemia) attack and kill red blood cells, which then accumulate to block blood vessels.[2]
Last updated: 1/23/2012