Amyloidosis 101: Symptoms, Types and Treatments

Less than 200,000 Americans are affected by the rare disease amyloidosis. It takes place when your body accumulates an aberrant protein called amyloid. Your organs or tissues become clogged with these amyloid proteins, which affects how they function. The location of the amyloid buildup affects the symptoms.

Life-threatening complications from amyloidosis might include irregular heart rhythms and renal failure. So it’s critical to consult your doctor as soon as you discover any symptoms. To relieve symptoms and avoid problems, there are fortunately several therapeutic choices available. Find out more about the signs, causes, and remedies for amyloidosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Amyloidosis

Early on in the course of amyloidosis, you might not even have any symptoms. The heart, kidneys, liver, neurological system, and other organs and bodily systems may suffer harm as amyloid levels rise. A wide range of symptoms can result from amyloidosis because it can affect so many different body organs.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Numbness or pain in your hands or feet
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Swelling of the ankles or feet
  • Decreased urine output (peeing less) or foamy urine
  • Enlargement of the tongue or trouble swallowing
  • Thickened skin or easy bruising on your face or chest
  • Dizziness or irregular heartbeat

If you notice these symptoms, talk with your doctor to find out what’s causing them. It’s important to treat amyloidosis early to prevent more damage to your body.

Types and Causes of Amyloidosis

There are numerous varieties of amyloidosis, each with a unique underlying etiology. There are four primary forms of amyloidosis:

  • AL amyloidosis (also called “primary amyloidosis” or “light chain amyloidosis”) is the most common type of amyloidosis in the United States. Experts aren’t sure what causes this type. When you have AL amyloidosis, your bone marrow produces abnormal amyloid proteins. It usually affects the heart, kidneys, liver and nerves.
  • AA amyloidosis (also called “secondary amyloidosis”) is most often triggered by another condition that causes inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease. It usually affects the digestive tract, heart or liver.
  • Hereditary amyloidosis (also called “familial amyloidosis”) is inherited  — meaning it’s passed down in families through genes. It involves abnormal production of the protein transthyretin (TTR) by the liver. It usually involves the nervous system, heart or kidneys.
  • Localized amyloidosis affects only one organ, rather than multiple body systems. Usually, this type of amyloidosis affects the skin, throat, lungs or bladder.

Am I at Risk?

Amyloidosis can affect anyone, however it most frequently affects elderly persons between the ages of 60 and 70. Men are more prone to it as well. You may also be more susceptible to developing amyloidosis if you have:

  • A family history of amyloidosis
  • Another chronic infectious or inflammatory condition
  • You’re currently on dialysis treatment for kidney disease, or you were in the past

Diagnosing Amyloidosis

It’s crucial to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience amyloidosis symptoms. It might be challenging to diagnose amyloidosis because its symptoms frequently overlap with those of other prevalent medical disorders.

Your physician will inquire about your medical history and family history. Then they might perform certain tests to determine whether amyloidosis is the source of your symptoms. Testing for amyloidosis might entail:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Tissue biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue to look at under a microscope)
  • Imaging tests like an echocardiogram, MRI or nuclear imaging

What Are the Treatments for Amyloidosis?

Despite the fact that there is presently no cure for amyloidosis, there are a number of efficient management techniques available. Treating the underlying illness may help with amyloidosis symptoms if it is the cause of your condition. Among the amyloidosis treatments are:

  • Chemotherapy to minimize the growth of cells that lead to abnormal protein production
  • Targeted medication therapy to prevent the buildup of amyloid deposits
  • Heart medicines like blood thinners and diuretics manage heart symptoms and prevent complications
  • Dialysis for people with significant kidney damage, to remove waste from the body
  • Organ transplant when amyloid deposits have caused damage to a particular organ

Next Steps

Inform your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any amyloidosis symptoms.

Treatments for amyloidosis, like those for many other diseases, are most effective when initiated at an early stage after diagnosis. Together, you and your doctor can decide on a course of therapy that is suitable for you by talking about your alternatives.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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