This rare disease can affect different organs in different people. Find out how early and accurate diagnosis can lead to better outcomes.
Amyloidosis (am-uh-loi-DO-sis) is a rare disease that occurs when a protein called amyloid builds up in organs. This amyloid buildup can make the organs not work properly.
Organs that may be affected include the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system and digestive tract.
Some types of amyloidosis occur with other diseases. These types may improve with treatment of the other diseases. Some types of amyloidosis may lead to life-threatening organ failure.
Treatments may include chemotherapy with strong drugs used to treat cancer. Other types of medications can reduce amyloid production and control symptoms. Some people may benefit from organ or stem cell transplants.
You may not experience symptoms of amyloidosis until later in the course of the disease. Symptoms may vary, depending on which organs are affected.
Signs and symptoms of amyloidosis may include:
See your health care provider if you regularly experience any of the signs or symptoms associated with amyloidosis.
Some people with amyloidosis experience purpura — a condition in which small blood vessels leak blood into the skin. This most commonly occurs around the eyes but can also affect other parts of the body.
There are many different types of amyloidosis. Some types are hereditary. Others are caused by outside factors, such as inflammatory diseases or long-term dialysis. Many types affect multiple organs. Others affect only one part of the body.
Types of amyloidosis include:
Factors that increase the risk of amyloidosis include:
Amyloidosis can seriously damage the:
Amyloidosis is often overlooked because the signs and symptoms can mimic those of more-common diseases.
Early diagnosis can help prevent further organ damage. Precise diagnosis is important because treatment varies greatly, depending on your specific condition.
Blood and urine may be analyzed for abnormal protein that can indicate amyloidosis. People with certain symptoms may also need thyroid and kidney function tests.
A tissue sample can be checked for signs of amyloidosis. The biopsy may be taken from the fat under the skin on the abdomen or from bone marrow. Some people may need a biopsy of an affected organ, such as the liver or kidney. The tissue can be tested to see what type of amyloid is involved.
Images of the organs affected by amyloidosis may include:
There's no cure for amyloidosis. But treatment can help manage signs and symptoms and limit further production of amyloid protein. If the amyloidosis has been triggered by another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or tuberculosis, treating the underlying condition can be helpful.
You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in blood disorders (hematologist).
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may provide time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked: