Merck Manual

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What Is Cryoglobulinemia?

What Is Cryoglobulinemia?

Cryoglobulins are abnormal antibodies produced by plasma cells Overview of Plasma Cell Disorders Plasma cell disorders are uncommon. They begin when a single plasma cell multiplies excessively. The resulting group of genetically identical cells (called a clone) produces a large quantity... read more and dissolved in the blood. When cooled below normal body temperature, cryoglobulins form large collections of solid particles (precipitates). When warmed to normal body temperature, they re-dissolve.

Precipitates of cryoglobulins can trigger inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis Overview of Vasculitis Vasculitic disorders are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis). Vasculitis can be triggered by certain infections or drugs or can occur for unknown reasons. People may have... read more Overview of Vasculitis ), which causes various symptoms, such as bruises, joint aches, and weakness. The vasculitis may damage the liver and kidneys. In some people, the damage may progress to liver failure and kidney failure and can be fatal.

Avoiding cold temperatures helps prevent vasculitis. Treating the underlying disorder may reduce the formation of cryoglobulins. For example, using interferon alpha to treat hepatitis C virus infection helps reduce formation of cryoglobulins. Removal of a large amount of plasma (the liquid part of blood) plus plasma transfusions (plasma exchange Plasma exchange In apheresis, blood is removed from a person and then returned after substances are removed from it. Apheresis can be used to Obtain healthy blood components from a donor to transfuse to a person... read more ) may help, especially when combined with interferon.