What Is Cold Agglutinin Disease

What Is Cold Agglutinin Disease?

What Is Cold Agglutinin Disease

In this article we answer the question “what is Cold Agglutinin disease?”. You’ll get a easy to understand overview so you know the basics about this rare disease.

Rare Disease

Not all diseases and illnesses are common such as colds or coughs. Some are actually rare and it only occurs to certain people who have a different condition than us. 

Or maybe there are also other factors that cause them to get infected or develop certain illnesses or diseases. These factors may include lifestyle, geographic location and environment, family history, and more. 

In some cases, diseases or illnesses can also be caused by another ailment. That is the case with the disease known as Cold Agglutinin Disease.

What Is Cold Agglutinin Disease?

Cold Agglutinin Disease, or also known as CAD, is a rare health condition that makes your body’s immune system attack your red blood cells, thus, destroying them. Most of the time, it is triggered by cold temperatures. 

Although cold temperatures are what triggers CAD, it is caused by two major factors that we will get into later. Thankfully, this disease is very rare. And, most of the time, it only happens to people over the age of 50 years. 

That is a short explanation of what CAD is. For a more specific explanation, Cold Agglutinin Disease includes the presence of high concentrations of cold-sensitive antibodies attacking red blood cells. 

This causes the red blood cells to clump and undergo lysis (basically this means the cells rupture and break open). Most of the time, these cold-sensitive antibodies are Immunoglobulin M or IgM. However, it can also be autoantibodies that can stay active at a temperature below 30 °C (86 °F). 

The blood of affected people is exposed to cold temperatures which range from 32 °F (0 °C; 273 K) to 50 °F (10 °C; 283 K). The IgM antibodies attach themselves to the red blood cells and clump them together. 

This then causes the red blood cells to be prematurely destroyed. CAD can cause anemia and other problems. There are two major causes for this condition.

Causes of Cold Agglutinin Disease

The primary cause of this condition is just it happens by itself. It is caused by excessive cell proliferation of B lymphocytes. Just like what was said earlier, it occurs to people over the age of 50 years. Women at that age are also at more risk of having it than men of the same age. 

The secondary cause of Cold Agglutinin Disease is brought by other conditions. Most of the time it is caused by another condition called lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that attacks your lymph nodes. However, other illnesses can also cause CAD such as:

  • Legionnaires disease
  • A virus that causes flu, hepatitis C, or AIDS
  • Parasitic infections such as malaria
  • Medical conditions that cause your immune system to turn against your body
  • Cancers that affect your blood cells

CAD Symptoms

Symptoms of CAD usually involve you being tired and weak. The symptoms of CAD are the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice
  • Chest pain
  • Sore back, legs, or joints
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Behavioral changes

At times, women who have this disease are not having periods. The symptoms get worse in winter or colder temperatures.