How Does Cold Agglutinin Disease Cause Heart Problems?

How Does Cold Agglutinin Disease Cause Heart Problems?
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Many patients with cold agglutinin disease (CAD) develop heart problems. CAD is a rare disease in which the immune system produces antibodies against red blood cells. When exposed to cold temperatures (below body temperature), these antibodies attack the red blood cells, causing the immune system to destroy them.

Some infections can cause CAD (secondary CAD), but the disease can also develop without a known cause (primary CAD).

What heart problems are caused by CAD?

In CAD, antibodies bind to red blood cells under cold conditions, causing them to clump. These clumped cells can clog or block blood vessels. They can also increase the viscosity of the blood, essentially making the blood thicker and more “sticky.”

This increased viscosity means that the heart has to work much harder to move blood throughout the body, which can cause problems. Patients may experience symptoms such as arrhythmias, high blood pressure, cardiomegaly, heart failure, or cardiac arrest.

What can be done about heart problems in CAD?

If you have CAD, discuss with your doctor whether you are at risk for heart problems so you can manage the symptoms of CAD to help reduce this risk. Many CAD patients need to be monitored throughout their lives.

What about heart surgery for CAD patients?

Some types of heart surgery are done under hypothermic conditions. Doctors stop the heart and chill the blood and body during the surgery to reduce the amount of oxygen that tissues need.

In patients with CAD, doctors need to adjust these procedures to prevent problems from cold exposure. Patients should discuss precautions with their doctor before surgery to prevent complications.

 

Last updated: June 25, 2020

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Cold Agglutinin Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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