Cold Agglutinin Disease (CAD) is a rare autoimmune blood disease. Where Cold sensitive or cold triggered antibodies, attack ones own Red Blood Cells causing them to be destroyed.
A more in depth explanation
Cold Agglutinin Disease is a rare type of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. Which is known by a fairly long list of other similar titles, and acronyms. Some with slight variations perhaps, but all clinically similar. A disease that causes the body’s own Immune System to attack and destroy its own Red Blood Cells, triggered by temperature.
This destruction of Red Blood Cells is accelerated when an affected person’s body or blood, is exposed to cooler or cold temperatures. Somewhat less than 37°C/98.6°F.
The trigger temperature point varies from patient to patient. That temperature point is highly unpredictable. It tends to vary wildly from CAD to CAD.
Problems can be triggered by cool/cold air temperature, cold drinks & foods, swimming & bathing, even evaporation due to wet or sweaty clothing, wet hair, or not drying off immediately after bathing, etc. Other CAD’s may remain unaffected by some of these annoying lifestyle issues.
Most CAD’s will have some type of physical visual reaction to a good cold exposure.
Red Blood Cells begin to clump together (Agglutination) triggered by some lower temperature exposure point. This clumping/Agglutination, can block blood flow in smaller arteries/blood vessels in the bodies extremities such as fingers, nose, toes, etc. Causing the extremities to become discolored in varying degrees.
While this clumping/Agglutination is occurring, the Red Blood Cells are also being destroyed. All of which can lead to the CAD patient becoming Anemic to some degree. Multiple short term cold exposures, or a single long term cold exposure, can often cause a CAD to spiral down to low Red Blood Counts that are alarmingly low and out of the normal range. Quite possibly leading to the need for blood transfusions if not paid attention too.
Excessive and/or long term excessive Hemolysis may also impact your body, and organs, in negative ways.
Cold Agglutinin Disease is not Raynaud’s Disease. Do not confuse the two. Though they have similar visible physical conditions at times. They are caused be two very distinct conditions or diseases. Both require adequate clinical diagnostic testing to confirm. Don’t let anyone tell you what you have, based solely on observation, without adequate clinical diagnostic medical testing. Some of these issues have helpful medical treatments available, if properly diagnosed.
In addition to temperature being a prime concern for a CAD. CAD affected people tend to have a lower immune system in general. Their Red Blood Counts (Production & Destruction) are further impacted by other common viruses, as well as by abnormal levels of Iron and/or Vitamin B12.
See more detail at Retic and the Iron & Vitamin B12 Connection with CAD.
While Cold Agglutinin Disease can be passing in nature, or temporary. It can also be long term or a life long disease that affects ones lifestyle or quality of life. Cold Agglutinin Disease can be considered Primary or Secondary. (Secondary has recently been referred to as CAS or Cold Agglutinin Syndrome.)