Can You Spot the Signs of Cold Agglutinin Disease?

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Anemia affects the body in many ways. The basic concepts are that the red blood cells are not completing their job. The red blood cells aren’t capable of transporting enough oxygen from the lungs and throughout the body. In some cases of anemia, not enough red blood cells are being created. For some other types, the red blood cells can be formed in a different shape and unable to perform their job normally. Sometimes the red blood cells look fine and just don’t do their job. The types of anemia are seemingly endless. 

Cold agglutinin disease is a rare form of anemia. Well, it’s a rare form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia, which is in itself a fairly rare form of anemia. With cold agglutinin disease, the red blood cells in the body are attacked by the immune system. This misrepresentation of red blood cells as a threat and response by the immune system is known as an autoimmune disease. 

Conditions That Cause Cold Agglutinin Disease

Primary cases of cold agglutinin disease don’t have a cause. They occur within a person and quite simply there is no way to determine why they are happening to that person. Secondary cases are more interesting. Secondary cases of cold agglutinin disease occur when a person is suffering from another condition primarily. 

The kind of conditions that can cause cold agglutinin are incredibly varied. Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the blood and is the number one secondary cause of cold agglutinin disease. Causes include bacterial infections, viral infections, parasitic infections, various cancers, autoimmune diseases and others. Some of the conditions that can cause someone to feel from cold agglutinin disease include: 

  • Syphilis (bacterial)
  • Mumps (viral)
  • Legionnaires’ Disease (bacterial) 
  • HIV (viral)
  • Malaria (parasitic)
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (cancer)
  • Multiple myeloma (cancer)
  • E. Coli (bacteria)
  • Influenza (viral) 
  • Rubella (viral)
  • Trypanosomiasis (parasitic)
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (autoimmune)

Symptoms That Aggravate During The Cold

The symptoms of cold agglutinin disease undergo attacks or flare ups. The most common reason a person undergoes a flare up is the weather and temperature. People who are experiencing temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees will feel the symptoms with greater severity and more often. Symptoms sometimes arrive quickly with no warning. Other times, they can slowly grow more severe. Typically, the severity of symptoms will be affected by how severe the anemia has become within the body. People should look out for symptoms like:

  • Heart Issues - These can include murmurs, arrhythmia, an enlarged heart or even heart failure. 
  • Skin Issues - Skin can turn pale. It can also go yellow for people with jaundice. 
  • Fatigue - People may feel very tired and lack energy. 
  • Headaches - Headaches are a very common symptom. 
  • Dizziness - People may feel dizzy and/or lightheaded. 
  • Pain - This can occur in a variety of places. Some feel it in the chest, while others may get it in the back or legs. 
  • Feeling Cold - This typically happens in the extremities, where people feel cold in their hands and feet all the time. 
  • Discolored Urine - It’s very possible for urine to appear much darker than normal. 

Treating Cold Agglutinin Disease

Treatment will depend on severity. Light cases can sometimes require no treatment, or rather, simply staying out of cold temperature areas. Severe cases of primary cold agglutinin disease can require a blood filtering treatment which will improve the body’s ability to filter blood. For immediate treatment, some people may need a blood transfusion to increase the red blood cells, however, that’s not a long term solution. 

Treatment for secondary cases of cold agglutinin disease is simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simpler. Treatment revolves around fixing the condition that is causing cold agglutinin disease. Once that condition is solved, then it will often go away on its own. If the disease or condition can’t be resolved, then treatment is designed around dealing with symptoms.