Amyloidosis is a rare disease. This disease causes the overproduction of the amyloid protein in the bone marrow. That protein will in turn spread throughout the body and settle into organs and tissues. The overt amount of amyloid protein affects the way these organs and tissue works in a variety of ways.
Because rare diseases are not common, people are often unfamiliar with the way they work and how they damage the body. This in turn can mean that there’s a misdiagnosis. If treatment is delayed, then it’s possible for some serious complications to occur. The best way to learn is by asking questions. The remainder of this article is dedicated to trying to answer some of the most common questions.
The 5 Important Questions
1: Which parts of the body can be affected?
A: Excess amyloid protein can technically appear in any organ or tissue region within the body. However, there are some areas where it’s far more common than others. The liver and kidneys are quite common. Amyloids can show up in the heart, skin or nervous system as well. Some types of amyloidosis affect the joints and tendons of the body, which can be very painful and mimic some serious movement problems like rheumatoid arthritis. Amyloidosis can also appear in the digestive tract.
2: What kinds of amyloidosis are there?
A: Currently there are four different types. Each is different due to the cause. AL produces amyloid proteins that simply can’t be broken down in the body. AA amyloidosis begins when someone suffers from a chronic disease that causes inflammation. This includes things like inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Hereditary amyloidosis is unsurprisingly passed down within the genes of a person. The final type is caused by excessive use of a dialysis machine. Dialysis-related amyloidosis mostly affects joints and tendons.
3: What are the symptoms?
A: Symptoms of amyloidosis tend to be delayed and not arrive until after the condition has reached an accelerated state. That’s part of the reason that knowing them is so useful. Seeing the symptoms can help with avoiding a delay in treatment. Symptoms will be different depending on the type of amyloidosis and the region of the body that is being affected. Some symptoms to look out for include shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing and an enlarged tongue. The ankles and legs can swell up. Some people feel incredibly weak and fatigued. Skin alterations are possible. Bruising can be uncommonly easy and the skin can thicken or turn purple around the eyes. Some people suffer from an irregular heartbeat or lose a large amount of weight without attempting to do so. Finally, a common symptom is diarrhea or constipation. This is most common when amyloidosis affects the digestive tract.
4: What are some of the potential complications?
A: Amyloidosis can affect many different organs. Complications are based on which organs are affected the most. Kidneys often suffer. They lose their ability to filter out the waste products the body produces, and in turn the person will end up suffering from kidney failure. The heart can often be affected as well. A transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy can cause heart failure and death. The nervous system is also commonly affected.
5: What will my doctor do to treat me?
A: Treatment is always based around the type of amyloidosis that is affecting the body. Treatments for AA will focus on what the underlying condition is that’s causing the inflammation. Treatments for AL focus on bone marrow cells producing the amyloids and trying to reduce that. Dialysis related amyloidosis is treated by a kidney transplant or sometimes by changing how the dialysis treatments are handled. Hereditary amyloidosis is tricky, but can often require a liver transplant to treat.
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