Cryoglobulinemia is the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood. These proteins thicken in cold temperatures.
Cryoglobulins are antibodies. It is not yet known why they become solid or gel-like at low temperatures. When this occurs, these antibodies can block blood vessels. This may lead to problems ranging from skin rashes to kidney failure.
Cryoglobulinemia is part of a group of diseases that cause damage and inflammation of the blood vessels throughout the body (vasculitis). There are three main types of the disorder. They are grouped based on the type of antibody that is produced:
Cryoglobulinemia type I
Cryoglobulinemia type II
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 people with mixed cryoglobulinemia have a chronic hepatitis C infection.
Other conditions that may be related to cryoglobulinemia include:
Stone JH. Immune Complex-Mediated Small Vessel Vasculitis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 91.
Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Palm Beach Cancer Institute, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA and the A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team.