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
Cardiac (Heart) Amyloidosis
Amyloid deposits in the heart can make the walls of the heart muscle stiff. They can also make the heart muscle weaker and affect the electrical rhythm of the heart. This condition can cause less blood to flow to your heart. Eventually, your heart will no longer be able to pump. If amyloidosis affects your heart, you may have:
- Shortness of breath with light activity
- An irregular heartbeat
- Signs of heart failure, including swelling of the feet and ankles, weakness, fatigue, and nausea, among others
Renal (Kidney) Amyloidosis
Your kidneys filter waste and toxins from your blood. Amyloid deposits in the kidneys make it hard for them to do this job. When your kidneys do not work properly, water and dangerous toxins build up in your body. If amyloidosis affects the kidneys, you may have:
- Signs of kidney failure, including swelling of the feet and ankles and puffiness around the eyes.
- High levels of protein in your urine.
Amyloid deposits along your gastrointestinal (GI) tract slow down the muscle contractions that help move food through your intestines. This interferes with digestion. If amyloidosis affects your GI tract, you may have:
- Decreased appetite
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
Liver involvement can cause liver enlargement, fluid buildup in the body, and abnormal liver function tests.
Amyloid deposits can damage the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord called the peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves carry information between your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and the rest of your body. For example, they make your brain perceive pain if you burn your hand or stub your toes. If amyloidosis affects your nerves, you may have:
- Balance problems
- Problems controlling your bladder and bowel
- Sweating problems
- Tingling and weakness
- Light-headedness when standing due to a problem with your body's ability to control blood pressure
Amyloidosis can also involve other organs including the lungs, skin, and spleen.
A thorough physical exam and a detailed and accurate account of your medical history are crucial in helping your doctor diagnose amyloidosis.
There is no blood test to detect amyloidosis. Sophisticated laboratory techniques called electrophoresis or free light chain assays may reveal early evidence of some amyloid proteins.