Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (PCH) is a rare blood disorder in which the body's immune system produces antibodies that destroy red blood cells when a person goes from cold to warm temperatures.
Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria only occurs in the cold, and affects mainly the hands and feet. Antibodies attach (bind) to red blood cells, which allows other proteins in the blood (called complement) to also latch on. The antibodies destroy the red blood cells as they move through the body and get rewarmed. As the cells are destroyed, hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen, is released into the blood and passed in the urine.
PCH has been linked to secondary syphilis, tertiary syphilis, and other viral or bacterial infections. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.