Cold winter temperatures are uncomfortable for most, but for a woman in New York, cold weather has caused a rare state of immunity, according to a new case report.
A 70-year-old woman lived in New York State, known for its cold and snowy winters. She went to the doctor after starting to get dizzy and developed an unusual arachnid purple rash all over the body, as reported today (September 25) in the New England Journal of Medicine . She told doctors that two weeks earlier she had developed symptoms of a viral respiratory infection the report said.
Doctors note that her giant rash appears to be due to a skin problem called livedo reticularis, which is thought to be caused by spastic blood vessels or impaired circulation just under the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic . But blood samples taken from the patient revealed that there was much more to her story, as doctors at Basset Medical Center in Cooperstown, New York, explain in the report. Instead of looking solid red, the woman's blood flowed almost clearly with large purple lumps floating through the liquid. The patient's red blood cells, which carry oxygen and give it a cardinal tinge, spontaneously fused.
Laboratory analyzes of a patient's blood reveal her diagnosis: A rare disease called cold agglutinin disease in which the immune system begins to destroy red blood cells according to the National Institute of Health's Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center .
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Usually, antibodies in the blood and lymphatic fluid seek and destroy invading pathogens, such as invading pathogens, such as bacteria and invading pathogens. In people with cold agglutinin disease, low temperatures trigger these antibodies to bind to red blood cells. The captured cells accumulate in clumps, a process known as agglutination, which eventually kills the cells and leaves people deprived of much needed blood oxygen . In this case, both the patient's recent infection and cold New York weather ̵
The medical team warms the woman and treats her with blood transfusion and the cancer drug rituximab, which can also be used to treat certain autoimmune conditions, according to the NIH . After a week of treatment, the patient's red blood cell-to-blood ratio has doubled, indicating that her anemia is gone and her dizziness has subsided, though her spotty rash still remains at discharge from the hospital.
Originally published by Live Science .