Cold agglutinin disease (CAD) is a rare disease in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells in cold temperatures, causing them to clump together and then disintegrate. This leads to anemia, among other symptoms.

CAD is divided into two types — primary CAD and secondary CAD — based on the cause of the disease. The symptoms and treatment are similar for both.

Primary CAD

Patients may be diagnosed with primary CAD if the disease occurs without a known cause. CAD is not inherited, though genetic factors may make a person more likely to develop the disease. CAD is likely to be multifactorial, meaning that more than one factor (genes, environment, etc.) may contribute to its development. Because CAD is an autoimmune disease, patients may develop other autoimmune diseases after developing CAD.

Secondary CAD

Secondary CAD occurs when the immune system’s attack on the red blood cells is caused by an underlying condition. Autoantibodies (antibodies that attack the body’s own cells or tissues) can be produced in autoimmune diseases, and it is thought that patients with one autoimmune disease are more likely to develop another autoimmune disease. In secondary CAD, the autoantibodies against the red blood cells are secondary to another disease, which may itself be an autoimmune disease.

Secondary CAD can also be caused by certain types of viral, parasitic, or bacterial infection or some types of cancer.

Treating the underlying condition often also treats secondary CAD.

 

Last updated: Aug. 15, 2019

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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 health provider 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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