Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia – Cold Agglutinin Disease – Causes & Treatments

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia – Cold Agglutinin Disease – Causes & Treatments

“Cold agglutinin disease” is a rare disease which occurs in approximately one out of eighty thousand people and is a form of anemia known as “autoimmune hemolytic anemia” and is caused by the destruction of red blood cells from antibodies which are activated in cold temperatures typically in the range of thirty two to fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Activation of these antibodies can occur when the feet or hands of an individual who has this disorder are exposed to winter like weather or hypothermia.

Causes of Cold Agglutinin Disease

There are two types of this disease which are the primary and secondary forms of cold agglutinin disease. The difference between these two types is that there is no known cause for the primary form while the secondary is caused by other medical conditions which are typically infections and lymphoproliferative disorders.

When this disease occurs in children it is primarily caused by an acquired infection such as HIV, mononucleosis, or mycoplasma pneumonia, and typically disappears in six months, however, this disease is more prevalent in elderly adults and can be chronic with the more common causes being “chronic lymphoid leukemia” or “lymphoma”.

Treatments for Cold Agglutinin Disease

In mild cases of this disease typically seen in children, no medical treatment other than treatment for certain underlying conditions such as mycoplasma infection which may have caused the disease is needed. In some cases recommendations are made to avoid exposure to cold weather and prevent hypothermia which may include re-locating to another geographical location during winter weather.

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Patients with anemia are also often advised to avoid any strenuous exercise. In severe cases of this disease, red blood cell transfusions may be ordered in which compatibility testing is done and the transfusion is given with blood warmers which warm the blood to body temperature or 37 degrees Celsius.