Get Familiar With the Symptoms of Amyloidosis Disease

When an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in the organs and tissues of your body, this is called amyloidosis. Tissues and organs won’t be able to work sufficiently, and this condition can lead to a life-threatening state of health. There are a number of causes for this condition, as well as many symptoms that can present themselves. Sometimes a result of other health issues, there is no real cure for amyloidosis. Symptoms can vary, including things like diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, bleeding, numbness, swelling of the legs, or enlargement of the spleen. There are over 30 different types of amyloidosis. Each has its own set of information, treatment options, symptoms and concerns. It is important to work with a medical professional who can help you manage your condition.

Causes of Amyloidosis Disease

Each of the various types of Amyloidosis tends to have their own type of causes or risk factors. Some of the most common types are shown below:

  • AL amyloidosis - The most common form of this condition, the AL stands for amyloid light chains. With no known causes, your body will begin to make abnormal antibodies that it cannot process. Many patients with this issue will develop a blood cancer called myeloma. Eventually, the kidneys, liver, heart and nerves will be irreversibly affected.
  • AA amyloidosis - This is a condition that usually occurs because of an inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Your kidneys, digestive tract, heart and liver can be affected with this type of amyloidosis.
  • Dialysis-related amyloidosis - More common in adults and the elderly, this is a form of amyloidosis that is caused by deposits of beta-2 microglobulin in the bloodstream. This issue can be caused by long term dialysis of the kidneys. The bones, tendons and joints are also often affected.
  • Familial amyloidosis - Passed down from generation to generation, the liver, nerves, heart and kidneys are most affected because of a genetic issue.
  • Organ-specific amyloidosis - Deposits of amyloid protein in single organs can affect the skin. This is prevalent in many demographics of people.

Symptoms of Amyloidosis

The subtle symptoms that are associated with amyloidosis often make it difficult to diagnose this ongoing issue. As the protein builds up in the body, the changes in bodily function are gradual. Many conditions mimic these symptoms, and many patients are misdiagnosed. The most common symptoms that patients experience include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Skin changes
  • Feeling bloated or full
  • Pain in joints
  • Low red blood cell count
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakened hand grip
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath

Amyloidosis Affecting the Heart

When the heart experiences deposits in the heart, this can lead to the heart muscle becoming very stiff. The heart will eventually weaken because of the electrical rhythm being altered. With less blood flow to the heart, patients will experience shortness of breath with minimal activity, irregular heart rhythm, palpitations, swelling in the feet and ankles, nausea and vomiting.

Renal Amyloidosis

Kidneys are designed to filter toxins out of the blood in the body. When the amyloid deposits are blocking the kidneys from doing their job, toxins and water will build up in the body. Symptoms include kidney failure, swelling of the feet and ankles, puffiness around the eyes and high levels of protein in the urine.

Gastrointestinal Amyloidosis

Deposits accumulating in your stomach and intestinal tract will slow everything down. Digestion will not be able to occur properly, resulting in a decreased appetite, nausea, loose stools and weight loss. Your body may also become malnourished. You might think that you are consuming enough food, but there isn't proper absorption taking place. Low levels of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to a host of other issues.

Treatment of Amyloidosis

Once a doctor suspects that you might be affected by some form of amyloidosis, they will put you through a series of diagnostic tests. This can include genetic testing for the hereditary form of amyloidosis. Once a diagnosis has been provided, you may be required to undergo an echocardiogram or imaging test for your liver to ensure no permanent damage has been done. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the amyloidosis, as well as the type that is present. There is no cure for this disease, but you can slow down the symptoms. High doses of chemotherapy can assist with removing the buildup from the body. You should also be treating the underlying condition that you have which could be causing the problem. For patients who have been dealing with this condition for many years, a liver transplant or kidney transplant may be needed. Treating symptoms can include the use of diuretics for flushing out excess fluid from the body, compression stockings for swelling and changes in diet. Unfortunately, this condition can be deadly if it is not properly treated, or if it is affecting the heart and kidneys.

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