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.
A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of amyloidosis and determine the specific type of protein involved in the disease. The tissue sample for the biopsy may be taken from the abdominal fat pad, or sometimes the mouth, rectal, or other involved organs. It is not always necessary to biopsy the part of the body damaged by the amyloid deposits.
Genetic testing will be done if your health care provider suspects you have a type that is passed down through families. Treatment for hereditary amyloidosis is different than for other types of the disease.
Other blood, urine, and imaging tests will be done to check organ function.