Blood cells' reaction to cold agglutinins

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Question from K.G.:
How do cold agglutinins and cll cause hemolysis and anemia?

Answer from Dr. Leclair:
Cold agglutinins are antibodies that cover the outside of the red cell count and cause them to clump together (agglutinate). When that happens, the cells are removed from the circulation (typically by the spleen), causing anemia.

All antibodies, including cold agglutinins, are produced by lymphocytes, so folks with unusual lymphocytes can get into trouble when these abnormal lymphocytes start making antibodies that coat the red cells. These coated cells will be removed from the circulation by the spleen (and the spleen gets larger), or the cells are so damaged that they break up in the bloodstream, causing hemolysis which then causes anemia.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Have a question for the experts? Send them to questions@patientpower.info.

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Page last updated on April 25, 2019