What Is Amyloidosis? Symptoms to Look Out For

Do you know what amyloidosis is? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Many people have never heard of this relatively rare condition.

And because not many people know about it, amyloidosis often goes undiagnosed – which can be dangerous because it’s a severe disease.

This article will give you some basic information about amyloidosis, including its causes and some symptoms to look out for.

What is Amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis is a rare disease when an abnormal protein, amyloid, builds up in your organs. Amyloid is usually produced by your body’s cells, but the protein isn’t broken down properly in amyloidosis. This can cause organs to fail.

There are several types of amyloidosis, each with its symptoms. The most common type is AL amyloidosis, which affects the heart and kidneys. Other types include AA amyloidosis, which affects the liver and spleen; familial amyloid polyneuropathy, which affects the nervous system; and primary localized amyloidosis, which affects the skin.

Amyloidosis is often mistaken for other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s because the symptoms can be similar. There is no cure for amyloidosis, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Amyloidosis?

The symptoms of amyloidosis can vary depending on the type of amyloidosis and which organs are affected.

Common symptoms of amyloidosis include:

Shortness of Breath

Because amyloid can build up in the heart, it can cause congestive heart failure and shortness of breath.

Fatigue

Amyloidosis can cause anemia, a low level of red blood cells. This can lead to fatigue since your body lacks oxygen-rich blood.

Numbness or Tingling in the Extremities

Amyloidosis can cause neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves. This can cause numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities.

Swollen Ankles or Legs

If amyloidosis affects your kidneys, it can cause fluid retention and swell in the ankles and legs.

Weight Loss

Amyloidosis can cause loss of appetite and weight loss.

Diarrhea

If amyloidosis affects your intestines, it can cause diarrhea.

Skin Changes

When amyloidosis affects the skin, it can cause changes in color or texture. The skin may be thin and fragile, and bruises may occur quickly.

How Is Amyloidosis Diagnosed?

Amyloidosis is often challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic other diseases. If amyloidosis is suspected, your doctor will likely order a variety of tests, including:

  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can show if there are abnormal proteins in the blood.
  • Urine Tests: Urine tests can also show the presence of abnormal proteins.
  • Imaging Studies: Imaging studies, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, can show amyloid deposits in the organs.
  • Biopsy: In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. A small tissue sample is removed and examined under a microscope for the presence of amyloid proteins.

What Is the Treatment for Amyloidosis?

There is no cure for amyloidosis, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Treatment options include:

Drug Therapy

Drugs can be used to treat the underlying cause of amyloidosis and manage the symptoms.

Transplant

In some cases, a transplant may be necessary. For example, a heart transplant may be needed if amyloidosis has caused heart failure.

Supportive Care

Supportive care measures, such as oxygen therapy and lifestyle changes, can help to improve the quality of life for people with amyloidosis.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore new ways to treat and prevent disease. People with amyloidosis may be eligible to participate in clinical trials.

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