One-third to one-half of people with chronic hepatitis C infection have
cryoglobulinemia (antibodies in the bloodstream attached to the hepatitis
C RNA that happen to solidify when cold).
Hepatitis C is recognized as the most common cause of mixed cryoglobulinemia.
Most of the people with cryoglobulinemia from hepatitis C have had their
hepatitis for a long time or have cirrhosis. People with higher
concentrations of hepatitis C RNA in their blood do not seem to have a
higher risk of having cryoglobulinemia. Usually the cryoglobulins are in
low concentration and cause no symptoms.
About twenty-percent of people with hepatitis C and cryoglobulinemia have
symptoms. Symptoms most often associated with cryoglobulinemia include
mild fatigue, joint pains, or itching.
Occasionally, people with cryoglobulinemia develop vasculitis (inflammation of
the blood vessels) which can cause purpura (purple skin lesions),
Raynaud’s phenomenon (the hands turn white, then blue, and then red from
constriction and subsequent dilation of the blood vessels), or numbness
in the hands and feet. The presence of cryoglobulinemia does not effect
people’s response to interferon.
In fact, some people with vasculitis have improvement in the vasculitis as their liver tests improve on interferon.