Amyloidosis is a condition in which an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in your tissues and organs. When it does, it affects their shape and how they work. Amyloidosis is a serious health problem that can lead to life-threatening organ failure.
Causes and Types of Amyloidosis
Many different proteins can lead to the formation of amyloid deposits, but only a few have been linked to significant health problems. The type of protein and where it collects determines the type of amyloidosis you have. Amyloid deposits may collect throughout your body or in just one area.
There are different types of amyloidosis, including:
Primary (systemic AL) amyloidosis. This occurs without a known cause, but It has been seen in people with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. This is the most common type of amyloidosis. Systemic means it affects the entire body. The most commonly affected body parts are the kidney, heart, liver, intestines, and certain nerves. AL stands for "amyloid light chains," which is the type of protein responsible for this type of amyloidosis.
Secondary (systemic AA) amyloidosis. This is the result of another chronic disease, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), and certain cancers. It most commonly affects the spleen, kidneys, liver, adrenal gland, and lymph nodes. AA means the amyloid type A protein causes this type of amyloidosis.
Familial, or hereditary, ATTR amyloidosis (AF). This is a rare form that is passed down through families. ATTR stands for the amyloid transthyretin (TTR) protein. This protein is responsible for the most common forms of hereditary amyloidosis.
While some types of amyloid deposits have been linked to Alzheimer's disease, the brain is rarely involved in systemic (body-wide) amyloidosis.
Risk Factors for Amyloidosis
Men get amyloidosis more often than women. Your risk for amyloidosis increases as you grow older.
Amyloidosis may also occur in people with end-stage kidney disease who are on dialysis for a long time. This is called dialysis-related amyloidosis. It is caused by deposits of beta-2 microglobulin that build up in the blood. It is more common in older adults and people who have been on dialysis for more than five years.
Symptoms of Amyloidosis
Symptoms of amyloidosis are often subtle. They can also vary greatly depending on where the amyloid protein is collecting in the body. It is important to note that the symptoms described below may be due to a variety of different health problems. Only your doctor can make a diagnosis of amyloidosis.
General symptoms of amyloidosis may include:
- Changes in skin color
- Clay-colored stools
- Feeling of fullness
- Joint pain
- Low red blood cell count (anemia)
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the tongue
- Tingling and numbness in legs and feet
- Weak hand grip
- Weight loss