Cryoglobulinemia or cryoglobulinaemia is a medical condition in which the blood contains large amounts of cryoglobulins – proteins (mostly immunoglobulins themselves) that become insoluble at reduced temperatures. This should be contrasted with cold agglutinins, which cause agglutination of red blood cells. Cryoglobulins typically precipitate at temperatures below normal body temperature (37°C) and will dissolve again if the blood is heated. The precipitated clump can block blood vessels and cause toes and fingers to become gangrenous. Cryoglobulinemia can be associated with various diseases such as multiple myeloma and hepatitis C infection. Cryoglobulins usually consist of IgM directed against the Fc region of IgG.
Mild or moderate forms of cryoglobulinemia can often be treated by taking steps to deal with the underlying cause. Mild cases can be treated by avoiding cold temperatures. Standard hepatitis treatments work for most people who have hepatitis C and mild or moderate disease. The condition can come back when treatment stops. Severe cryoglobulinemia involves vital organs or large areas of skin. It is treated with corticosteroids and other medicines that suppress the immune system. Rituximab is an effective drug and has fewer risks than other medicines. Cyclophosphamide is used in life-threatening conditions where rituximab is not working or available. A treatment called plasmaphereis is also used. In this his procedure, blood plasma is taken out of blood circulation and abnormal cryoglobulin antibody proteins are removed. The plasma is replaced by fluid, protein, or donated plasma.
Major research on disease
Cryoglobulinemia is a type of vasculitis that is caused by abnormal proteins (antibodies) in the blood called "cryoglobulins." At cold temperatures, these proteins become solid or gel-like, which can block blood vessels and cause a variety of health problems. Many people affected by this condition will not experience any unusual signs or symptoms. When present, symptoms vary but may include breathing problems; fatigue; glomerulonephritis; joint or muscle pain; purpura; Raynaud's phenomenon; skin death; and/or skin ulcers. In some cases, the exact underlying cause is unknown; however, cryoglobulinemia can be associated with a variety of conditions including certain types of infection; chronic inflammatory diseases (such as autoimmune disease); and/or cancers of the blood or immune system. Treatment varies based on the severity of the condition, the symptoms present in each person and the underlying cause
Serum cryoglobulin levels were estimated in thirty-one patients with cutaneous vasculitis, twenty-nine patients with other skin disorders and forty-seven normal subjects. Eighteen of the normal sera contained mixed cryoglobulins—the upper limit of the normal range being 80 μg/ml. Twelve of the vasculitis patients had serum cryoglobulin levels above the normal range. All but one of these cryoglobulins were mixed cryoglobulins. A low serum C3 level was found in only one patient.