Cryoglobulinemia is a form of vasculitis (inflammatory vessel disease) characterized by elevated levels of cryoglobulins, proteins in the blood that lump together in cold temperatures. This accumulation disrupts blood flow which can result in organ damage, particularly in the kidneys and liver.
Cryoglobulinemia is often associated with an underlying condition, especially Hepatitis C. Other diseases linked to the condition include blood cancers and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and lupus erythematosus.
Symptoms of Cryoglobulinemia
Some people with cryoglobulinemia do not experience symptoms. For others, the symptoms come and go.
Symptoms of cryoglobulinemia may include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Numbness and discoloration of hands and feet, especially in cold temperatures
- Rash with red or purple spots under the skin
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weakness and/or fatigue
Risk Factors for Cryoglobulinemia
The cause of cryoglobulinemia is unknown, but many risk factors associated with the condition have been identified.
Risk factors for cryoglobulinemia may include:
- Age: Cryoglobulinemia typically affects people over the age of 50.
- Comorbid conditions: Cryoglobulinemia most commonly occurs in people with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Other conditions linked to cryoglobulinemia include rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus erythematosus, and lymphoma.
- Sex: The condition is more common in female patients.
Treating Cryoglobulinemia at UT Health Austin
Like all forms of vasculitis, corticosteroids like prednisone can be used to address the inflammation associated with cryoglobulinemia. Your physician may also use a biologic drug called rituximab.
Care Team Approach
At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines caring for you in one place. The Vasculitis Clinic care team includes rheumatologists, nurses, and medical assistants who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you.
We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to develop the best treatment plan for you. Advanced imaging and lab testing are also available on-site if needed, including computed tomography angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).