Cryoglobulins are abnormal proteins in the blood. If you have cryoglobulinemia (kry-o-glob-u-lih-NEE-me-uh), these proteins may clump together at temperatures below 98.6 F (37 C). These gelatinous protein clumps can impede your blood circulation, which can damage your skin, joints, nerves and organs — particularly your kidneys and liver.
Cryoglobulinemia care at Mayo Clinic
Symptoms usually come and go, and may include:
- Skin lesions. Most people with cryoglobulinemia develop purplish skin lesions on their legs. In some people, leg ulcers also occur.
- Joint pain. Symptoms resembling rheumatoid arthritis are common in cryoglobulinemia.
- Peripheral neuropathy. Cryoglobulinemia can damage the nerves at the tips of your fingers and toes, causing numbness and other problems.
Cryoglobulinemia has been associated with:
- Infections. Hepatitis C is the most common infection associated with cryoglobulinemia. Others include hepatitis B, HIV, Epstein-Barr, toxoplasmosis and malaria.
- Certain cancers. Some cancers of the blood, such as multiple myeloma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, can sometimes cause cryoglobulinemia.
- Autoimmune disorders. Disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome increase the risk of developing cryoglobulinemia.
Risk factors of cryoglobulinemia may include:
- Your sex. Cryoglobulinemia occurs more frequently in women than in men.
- Age. Symptoms of cryoglobulinemia usually begin in middle age.
- Other diseases. Cryoglobulinemia is associated with diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV, multiple myeloma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, lupus and Sjogren's syndrome.