Cryoglobulinemia is a rare complication of multiple myeloma and other blood cancers that begin in a type of white blood cell called B cells.
Cryoglobulinemia falls into a group of disorders called vasculitis, which is characterized by inflammation in your blood vessels.
In people with cryoglobulinemia, abnormal proteins called cryoglobulins build up and clump together at temperatures lower than typical body temperature. This clumping restricts blood flow and can lead to damage to your:
- blood vessels
Many people with multiple myeloma who develop cryoglobulinemia experience severe skin symptoms, such as gangrene or areas of dead tissue called necrotic ulcers.
Read on to learn about the connection between cryoglobulinemia and multiple myeloma.
Cryoglobulinemia is when you have many abnormal proteins called cryoglobulins in your blood. In people without cryoglobulinemia, it’s normal for a
In cryoglobulinemia, these abnormal proteins clump together at temperatures colder than the typical human body temperature of 37°C (98.6°F). The clumping can block your blood vessels, causing damage to your:
- blood vessels
- internal organs, especially the liver and kidneys
Cryoglobulinemia is divided into types 1, 2, and 3 depending on the makeup of the abnormal protein. Multiple myeloma is associated with type 1 cryoglobulinemia.
Here’s a look at the other conditions associated with cryoglobulinemia:
|Type 1||blood cancers such as:|
• multiple myeloma
• monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
• chronic lymphocytic leukemia
|Type 2||• hepatitis C|
• B cell blood disorders
• autoimmune diseases
• infectious diseases
|Type 3||• autoimmune diseases|
• systemic lupus erythematosus
• rheumatoid arthritis
• some infectious diseases
The development of cryoglobulinemia is not completely understood and likely varies between types. Hepatitis C infection is associated with
About 69 to 86 percent of people with type 1 cryoglobulinemia have skin symptoms that can include:
- rash with red spots or purple discoloration (purpura)
- blotchy discoloration (livedo reticularis)
- white to purplish-blue color of hands, feet, nose, or ears (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- blueness of hands and feet (acrocyanosis)
Nearly half of people with type 1 cryoglobulinemia develop severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms like necrotic ulcers or gangrene.
This gallery contains images of cryoglobulinemia rashes on the body.
Other symptoms of cryoglobulinemia
Other symptoms may include:
- unintentional weight loss
- kidney or liver damage
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- high blood pressure
- trouble breathing
Some people with cryoglobulinemia do not have any symptoms.
Type 1 cryoglobulinemia is a rare and life-threatening complication of multiple myeloma and other blood cancers that start in
The presence of cryoglobulins in multiple myeloma (also called myeloma) was first reported in 1933, and since then, only a few case studies of cryoglobulinemia in people with myeloma have been described in medical literature.
The researchers found that 89 of the participants experienced symptoms, and 94 participants had underlying cancer in their lymph system.
The researchers reported:
|Underlying condition||Participants affected|
|monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)||38%|
|other blood cancer||4%|
|no underlying blood cancer||8%|
Of the 20 people who had myeloma, 14 had smoldering myeloma. Smoldering myeloma is a precancerous form of myeloma that does not cause symptoms.
MGUS is a noncancerous condition that starts in plasma cells and sometimes becomes myeloma. It generally does not cause symptoms.
Detection of cryoglobulins and low levels of C4 compartment proteins is typical of cryoglobulinemia.
Cryoglobulinemia is sometimes found incidentally during blood testing when no symptoms are present.
Treatment for cryoglobulinemia is only necessary if you have symptoms.
Because cryoglobulinemia is a rare complication of myeloma, researchers are still investigating the best way to treat it. Current treatments typically focus on the underlying cancer.
Limiting exposure to cold temperatures, especially for your hands and feet, can help reduce symptoms. For example, you may benefit from wearing gloves when opening your fridge or freezer.
- steroids alone
- steroids with chemotherapy drugs called alkylating agents
- the targeted therapy drug rituximab (Rituxan) with or without steroids
- rituximab and alkylating agents with or without steroids
- new myeloma drugs, including immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors
- other therapies, such as antimetabolites like azathioprine and methotrexate
The researchers in this study found that symptoms improved in about
In the study, 30 percent of people who were treated received plasmapheresis in their initial therapy. Plasmapheresis is a procedure in which plasma is removed from the blood and replaced with healthy plasma.
The researchers did not find a difference in survival between people who did or didn’t receive plasmapheresis. However, the researchers noted it was hard to draw conclusions about its effectiveness because of the small sample size.
In a 2016 case report, researchers studied a 45-year-old woman who was diagnosed with myeloma and cryoglobulinemia. The woman received the chemotherapy drugs bortezomib (Velcade) and lenalidomide (Revlimid) with the steroid dexamethasone.
Her pain and skin symptoms healed, and at the time of publication, the woman was cancer-free for 30 months.
Cryoglobulinemia can potentially be cured by treating the underlying cancer cells producing abnormal proteins.
Type 1 cryoglobulinemia is
Younger age and not having neurological symptoms were associated with better survival outcomes.
Cryoglobulinemia is a rare complication of multiple myeloma. It’s caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins in the blood that clump together in temperatures below normal body temperature.
Most people with myeloma who develop cryoglobulinemia experience skin symptoms. They often have severe symptoms such as necrotic ulcers or gangrene. These symptoms can be life threatening and require immediate medical attention.
Contact a doctor if you suspect you have this rare condition.