Amyloidosis is a rare medical condition in which an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in organs and tissues. This build-up prevents the proper functioning of the organs and can even damage them in severe cases.
Usually, organs that are affected by this condition are kidneys, spleen, liver, heart, digestive tract, and nervous system. In some cases, amyloid can also collect throughout the body, which is known as systemic, or body-wide amyloidosis.
Amyloidosis symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the areas affected. However, there are some common symptoms that include:
- Severe weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Troubles in swallowing
- Unintentional loss in weight
- Irregular heartbeat
- Purple patches around eyes
- Chest pain and joint pain
- Swollen tongue
Who is at Risk?
Though anyone can get amyloidosis, there are certain factors that can increase your risk. Following are the amyloidosis risk factors you should keep in mind:
- Age: Usually, people over the age of 60 have higher chances of getting amyloidosis.
- Sex: 70 percent of the cases are accounted for men.
- Family History: Amyloidosis can occur due to genetic reasons as well.
- Kidney Disease: If you have a damaged kidney, chances are high that you may suffer from amyloidosis.
- Other Health Conditions: People with infectious or inflammatory diseases are more likely to get amyloidosis.
Commonly, amyloidosis is caused by changes in the protein that makes them insoluble and they start depositing in the organs and tissues.
Knowing exact amyloidosis causes is not possible since they are of various types. There are almost 30 types of amyloidosis depending on the specific protein misfolding. The most common ones are:
- AL (Primary) Amyloidosis: Also known as light chain amyloidosis, this one occurs when amyloid protein named light chains affect organs like your heart, kidneys, liver, and skin.
- AA (Secondary) Amyloidosis: This type of amyloidosis occurs due to inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It commonly affects the liver, kidney, and spleen.
- Hereditary amyloidosis (familial amyloidosis): As the name suggests, this is an inherited disorder that often affects the nerves, heart, and kidneys. It most commonly happens when a protein called transthyretin (TTR), made by your liver is abnormal.
- Wild-Type (Senile) ATTR Amyloidosis: Also known as senile systemic amyloidosis, this condition affects men over age 70 and typically targets the heart.
How is Amyloidosis diagnosed?
Since the symptoms of amyloidosis are the same as that of other health conditions, it is overlooked in most cases. Thus, if you experience any signs that indicate amyloidosis, schedule an appointment with the doctor right away. An early diagnosis can help in preventing any organ damage.
Amyloidosis diagnosis can involve various steps such as:
- Lab Test: The doctors may recommend blood, urine, or liver function test for analyzing the presence of abnormal protein.
- Imaging Test: To find out the severity of the disease, the doctor may conduct imaging tests such as an echocardiogram, MRI, or nuclear imaging.
- Biopsy: For this amyloidosis test, the doctor removes a sample of the tissue from the organ affected for lab analysis. This is done to determine the type of amyloid.
How is Amyloidosis treated?
There is no perfect amyloidosis cure. However, there are various treatment options that help in managing the signs and symptoms. These amyloidosis treatment methods include:
- Medications: Depending on the type, the doctor will prescribe specific medicine for amyloidosis to control the symptoms.
- Chemotherapy: The doctors may use chemotherapy to stop the growth of abnormal cells that produce the amyloid protein.
- Dialysis: This one is done if amyloidosis is affecting your liver. In this procedure, the doctors use a machine to filter wastes, salts, and fluid from your blood.
- Organ transplant: In severe cases where amyloidosis may have damaged the organ, the doctors might suggest an organ transplant.
To get the proper treatment, it is essential that you seek the right medical care. Here at Care. Fit, we have a diverse panel of doctors – from cardiologists to gastroenterologists – to offer you the best consultation. You just need to check our app or website to book an online consultation.
How can Amyloidosis be prevented?
Since the exact causes of amyloidosis are not known, you cannot prevent primary amyloidosis. The only way for the prevention of amyloidosis is by treating the underlying diseases that can lead to this condition.