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Cryoglobulins

 

Cryoglobulins are abnormal antibody proteins. This article describes the blood test used to check for them.

In the laboratory, cryoglobulins come out of solution in blood when the blood sample is cooled below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). They dissolve again when the sample is warmed up.

Cryoglobulins come in three main types, but in 90% of cases, the cause is hepatitis C. The disease in which cryoglobulins are found is called cryoglobulinemia.

How the Test is Performed

Because they are temperature sensitive, cryoglobulins are hard to accurately detect. The blood specimen must be collected in a special way, and the test should only be done in laboratories that are equipped for it. It is important that the laboratory allows the blood sample to clot and to spin it down at 37 degrees Celsius. It is a good idea to learn the correct method for testing so you can check with the lab to make sure they are following the proper procedure.

Blood is drawn from a vein. A vein on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand is used in most cases. Blood should NOT be drawn from a catheter that has heparin in it. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm. The vial should be at room or body temperature before it is used. Vials that are colder than room temperature may not give accurate results.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding. The filled vial should immediately be placed in a temperature-controlled vessel to keep it at body temperature.

How to Prepare for the Test

 

You may want to call ahead to ask to have your blood drawn by a lab technician who has experience collecting blood for this test.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

Some people feel discomfort when the needle is inserted. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

This test is most often done when a person has symptoms of a condition associated with cryoglobulins. Cryoglobulins are associated with cryoglobulinemia. They also occur in other conditions that affect the skin, joints, kidneys, and nervous system.

 

Normal Results

 

Normally, there are no cryoglobulins.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The example above shows the common measurement for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

A positive test may indicate:

  • Hepatitis (especially hepatitis C)
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Macroglobulinemia - primary
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • Nephrotic syndrome

 

Risks

 

Risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

 

 

References

Ferri FF. Cryoglobulimenia. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:section 338-338.

 
  • Blood test

    Blood test - illustration

    Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

    Blood test

    illustration

  • Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers

    Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers - illustration

    Cryoglobulinemia is caused by an abnormal protein that is occasionally found in the blood of people with multiple myeloma, leukemia, and certain forms of pneumonia. It causes blood to gel at low temperatures. In this picture, cryoglobulinemia has reduced blood flow in the fingers so much the fingers have turned dark; the black areas are gangrene resulting from lack of blood flow.

    Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers

    illustration

    • Blood test

      Blood test - illustration

      Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.

      Blood test

      illustration

    • Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers

      Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers - illustration

      Cryoglobulinemia is caused by an abnormal protein that is occasionally found in the blood of people with multiple myeloma, leukemia, and certain forms of pneumonia. It causes blood to gel at low temperatures. In this picture, cryoglobulinemia has reduced blood flow in the fingers so much the fingers have turned dark; the black areas are gangrene resulting from lack of blood flow.

      Cryoglobulinemia - of the fingers

      illustration

    Tests for Cryoglobulins

     

     

    Review Date: 1/20/2015

    Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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