Cryoglobulinemia is the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood. These abnormal proteins become thick or gel-like in cold temperatures.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Cryoglobulins are antibodies. It is not yet known why they become solid at low temperatures. When they do thicken or become somewhat gel-like, they can block blood vessels throughout the body. This may lead to complications ranging from skin rashes to kidney failure.
Cryoglobulinemia is part of a group of diseases that cause vasculitis — damage and inflammation of the blood vessels throughout the body. The disorder is grouped into three main types, depending on the type of antibody that is produced:
- Cryoglobulinemia type I
- Cryoglobulinemia typeII
- Cryoglobulinemia type III
Types II and III are also referred to as mixed cryoglobulinemia.
Type I cryoglobulinemia is most often related to cancer of the blood or immune systems.
Types II and III are most often found in people who have a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory condition, such as an autoimmune disease or hepatitis C. Most patients with mixed cryoglobulinemia have a chronic hepatitis C infection.
Other conditions that may be related to cryoglobulinemia include:
- Multiple myeloma
- Mycoplasma pneumonia
- Primary macroglobulinemia
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Pictures & Images
Cryoglobulinemia – of the fingers
Cryoglobulinemia is caused by an abnormal protein that is occasionally found in the blood of people with multiple myeloma, leukemia, and certain forms of pneumonia. It causes blood to gel at low temperatures. In this picture, cryoglobulinemia has reduced blood flow in the fingers so much the fingers have turned dark; the black areas are gangrene resulting from lack of blood flow.
Cryoglobulinemia – fingers
Tissue necrosis caused by distal capillary thrombosis resulting from cryoglobulin precipitation in the vessels. The black tissue under the nails is ischemic, and will eventually slough, or be reabsorbed by the body.
Blood is comprised of red blood cells, platelets, and various white blood cells.
Review Date : 1/12/2009
Reviewed By : Todd Gersten, M.D., Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.