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How Familiar Are You With Cold Agglutinin Syndrome?

The range of sicknesses and illnesses that are possible can be fairly staggering. Seemingly any part of the body can function incorrect. The triggers for these are endless. While many are very common, there are a large variety of diseases and syndromes which people have little information about. Cold agglutinin syndrome is one of these. 

Cold agglutinin syndrome (used interchangeably with cold agglutinin disease or CAD) is a rare disease in which the body attacks its red blood cells. This isn’t so rare it itself. What’s special about this disease is that it is triggered by the cold! People who are exposed to cold temperatures find themselves dizzy as their blood is damaged and can even suffer from heart failure. While it’s a rather rare disease, the potential consequences make it a disease that is well worth being educated about. 

Understanding the Causes of Cold Agglutinin Syndrome

In some cases, there is no specific cause for why one person gets cold agglutinin disease. This is called the “primary” form of the disease. Quite simply, the reason it strikes is unknown. There are some other “secondary” cases of cold agglutinin disease. In these cases, the issues start from another medical condition, which adds cold agglutinin disease as well. People have been known to get it when they have one or more of the following: 

  • Lymphoma
  • Bacterial Infection - Example: Legionnaires Disease
  • Parasitic Infection - Example: Malaria
  • Viral Infection - Example: Hepatitis C
  • Autoimmune Disorders and Diseases
  • Blood Affecting Cancers 

Symptoms of Cold Agglutinin Syndrome

The symptoms of cold agglutinin disease are more severe during the winter or periods of cold weather. The most common symptom is simply some fatigue and feeling constantly tired. However, there are also additional symptoms that can pop up. These include: 

  • Skin Color Change - Skin may appear more yellow than before. It can also become very pale. 
  • Behavioral Changes - This most commonly manifests as irritability and anger, but can be other behavioral changes as well. 
  • Dizziness - People with CAD can find themselves feeling dizzy. This is often accompanied with painful headaches. 
  • Soreness - Typically this pain occurs in the back, joints or legs of a person. Sometimes people may feel chest pains as well. 
  • Irregular Heartbeat - That uncomfortable feeling of an irregular heartbeat is well known to people who have experienced it. 
  • Ringing in the Ears - This symptom is common, but can be confused with tinnitus by some people. 
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea - People with cold agglutinin disease can suffer from one or both of these symptoms. 

Treatment of Cold Agglutinin Disease

There are several treatment paths that can be taken by a doctor to assist in dealing with cold agglutinin syndrome. Which one they choose to take is going to depend on the severity of the symptoms. The other factor is whether it’s a primary or secondary case of CAD. 

Treatment for secondary cases will focus on curing the underlying issue. Many people will see the symptoms they are suffering from disappear after they have had the underlying condition brought to completion. 

Mild cases may simply require a person doing their best to stay warm. Avoiding cold weather is simple. Short term options can include blood filtering or a blood transfusion if the red blood cell count is dangerously low. These options are purely to deal with symptoms and don’t do anything to handle the root cause. 

The more severe cases of cold agglutinin disease will require taking doses of medications. Which medication chosen will depend on the patient and doctor. Some of them are designed to keep harmful cells from growing. Others target immune system cells. Side effects are sometimes severe, so ensure everything is well explained by a doctor should you contract cold agglutinin syndrome.  


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