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Cryoglobulin Blood Test

Last updated April 27, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

The Cryoglobulin Blood Test is a test to detect cryoglobulins in blood. It is used to aid in the diagnosis of cryoglobulinemia and certain cancers.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Cryo Blood Test
  • Cryocrit Blood Test
  • Cryoprotein Blood Test 

What is Cryoglobulin Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Cryoglobulins are abnormal blood proteins that precipitate and harden, when exposed to cold temperatures. This obstructs the flow of blood, causing diseases
  • Cryoglobulins are actually a type of immune protein, called immunoglobulins (also called antibodies, when in circulation). Immunoglobulins are of two forms:
    • Monoclonal immunuglobulins are identical and originate from one cell line
    • Polyclonal immunoglobulins are different and originate from multiple cell lines
  • However, cryoglobulins are abnormal immunoglobulins. They are susceptible to clumping, when the temperature of blood falls below normal levels (37°C), especially in the fingers
  • Clumped cryoglobulins interfere with blood flow, which is problematic, because tissues in the extremities may become starved for oxygen. Cryoglobulins may also elicit an immune response, if they clump together. This causes inflammation, clotting, and circulatory problems
  • Symptoms caused by cryoglobulins are associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon and includes skin discoloration and tingling of the extremities; most commonly, this involves the fingers and toes
  • The condition of large amounts of precipitated cryoglobulins is called cryoglobulinemia. There are 3 types of cryoglobulinemia:
    • Type I cryoglobulinemia - caused by deformed monoclonal antibodies; associated with cancer
    • Type II cryoglobulinemia - caused by both deformed monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies; associated with viral infections
    • Type III cryoglobulinemia - caused by deformed polyclonal antibodies; associated with autoimmune diseases
  • The Cryoglobulin Blood Test is a test to detect cryoglobulins in blood. It is used to aid in the diagnosis of cryoglobulinemia and certain cancers

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Cryoglobulin Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing a Cryoglobulin Blood Test:

  • Problem with the extremities (hands and feet) that include:
    • Sensitivity to cold
    • Rash
    • Joint pain
    • Paleness
    • Weakness
    • Swelling
    • Tingling sensation 

How is the Specimen Collected for Cryoglobulin Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Cryoglobulin Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process: Insertion of a needle into an arm vein.

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test. 

What is the Significance of the Cryoglobulin Blood Test Result?

The significance of Cryoglobulin Blood Test is explained: 

Increased cryoglobulin levels may indicate:

  • Cryoglobulinemia (type I, II, or III)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia
  • Acute post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis
  • Chronic infection, especially hepatitis C
  • Liver disorder or cirrhosis
  • Endocarditis
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus 

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario. 

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Certain factors may interfere with the results of the Cryoglobulin Blood Test. These include eating a fatty meal prior to performing the test; this may increase the viscosity of blood and interfere with the analysis
  • Cryoglobulins are undetectable by conventional protein electrophoresis 

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 11, 2014
Last updated: April 27, 2018