Encyclopedia Home / C / Cryoglobulinemia


  • Definition

    Cryoglobulinemia is the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood. These abnormal proteins become thick or gel-like in cold temperatures.

    Causes, incidence, and 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:

    • Leukemia
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Mycoplasma pneumonia
    • Primary macroglobulinemia
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus