When it comes to diseases, it can feel like the worst ones are those which turn the body against itself. The immune system is supposed to be there to protect and help the body. The body isn’t supposed to fight itself. Cold agglutinin syndrome is one such problem.
Also called cold agglutinin disease (CAD), this condition is one in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells. It’s considered a type of anemia and likely why “cold antibody hemolytic anemia” is also added to the bevy of names this condition is known by. This disease will strike approximately 1 in about every 300,000 people at some point. People over the age of 60 are most commonly afflicted, with women being more at risk than men.
Causes and How It Works
What makes this disease so interesting and different is that it’s commonly triggered by environmental factors. People feel the effects when they are in cold weather environments. The cold weather triggers the immune system (the cold agglutinin within it to be specific) to attack the red blood cells. Normally they would attack viruses or bacteria within the body. CAD removes red blood cells faster than they can be produced and leads to anemia.
People can find out they have cold agglutinin syndrome with seemingly no reason. This is the primary form. The secondary form is when another disease or infection causes the body to trigger cold agglutinin disease. The list of potential health issues is immense, but includes things like E.coli, syphilis, AIDS, hepatitis C, malaria, blood cancers and even the common flu. However, about all of these conditions is lymphoma. This is a cancer that attacks the lymph nodes within the body. This is the most common disease that produces secondary cold agglutinin disease.
Symptoms of Cold Agglutinin Syndrome
There are many symptoms that those with cold agglutinin syndrome would expect to under. The first and most prominent is a pronounced fatigue and tired feeling. People may also feel dizzy, have headaches or feel a ringing in their ears. Pain is also common, with the legs, joints, back and chest commonly locations for soreness or pain. People with cold agglutinin syndrome could also suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. Behavioral changes are common, with many people becoming extra irritable in the cold weather. Skin going pale or yellow skin can also occur.
There are also some extra symptoms for specific groupings of people. Women often are unable to have their menstrual cycle complete. Others can get Raynaud’s phenomenon. Of course, symptoms are worse in the winter when temperatures are lower everywhere.
Treatment of Cold Agglutinin Syndrome
Treatment for cold agglutinin diseases will depend on the type that has been contracted. Treatment for secondary cases will mean finding the right treatment for the illness or infection that is causing the cold agglutinin syndrome. This means that treatments are wide and varied. If the issues causing it is fixed, then usually CAD will clear up in a few months.
For primary cases, the severity of the symptoms will determine treatment. Very mild cases can simply require staying away from cold weather and keeping oneself warm. However, if red blood cell counts have dropped heavily, then a blood transfusion or a blood filtering treatment can give temporary relief. Severe cases will require taking medication for at least several weeks before improvement is likely.
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