A doctor and patient discuss amyloidosis

Amyloidosis Symptoms

Amyloidosis is a rare condition that is caused by a buildup of the abnormal protein amyloid in your organs and tissues. Depending on which organs are affected, there are many different types of amyloidosis. Symptoms for each type will vary depending on which organs are being affected as well.

Symptoms of AL Amyloidosis

This is the most common type of amyloidosis. AL amyloidosis is caused by a bone marrow disorder. The organs typically affected and the consequential symptoms include:

  • Kidneys: It is common for people with this type of amyloidosis to have chronic kidney disease, since the amyloid deposits in the kidneys will affect how well they are able to filter toxins and proteins in your blood. This can lead to swelling in the lower legs, belly, arms, and lungs.

  • Heart: Amyloid deposits in the heart can cause it to become thick and stiff, which affects its ability to function normally, resulting in shortness of breath from minor activities. It can also lead to arrhythmia, which is the speeding up or slowing down of a normal heartbeat.

  • Digestive system: The gastrointestinal (GI) tract can also be affected by amyloid deposits, leading to nausea, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, loss of appetite, and a feeling of fullness after only eating small amounts.

  • Nervous system: This type of amyloidosis can cause problems with the nerves in your hands, feet, and lower legs, possibly leading to pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of sensitivity to temperature.

  • Other symptoms: Chronic fatigue and weakness are also common among people with AL amyloidosis. It is also common to experience bruising around the eyes, which is referred to as purpura.

Symptoms of AA Amyloidosis

This type of amyloidosis occurs as a reaction to another illness, such as a chronic infection or a chronic inflammatory disease. The symptoms for this type of amyloidosis include:

  • Kidney problems: The first symptoms of this type of amyloidosis are usually related to kidney function, such as protein in the urine, swelling in the ankles and legs, and high cholesterol levels. Patients may also go into renal failure, which means they will need to undergo dialysis.

  • Other organs: Other organs that are affected by AA amyloidosis include an enlarged spleen, enlarged liver, and enlarged thyroid. It is also common to experience low blood pressure, gastrointestinal atony, diarrhea, and constipation. If there are AA amyloidosis deposits in the heart, this could also lead to arrhythmias and congestive heart failure.

Symptoms of Hereditary Amyloidosis

This type of amyloidosis is caused by inheriting a certain genetic mutation that causes your body to produce abnormal amyloid proteins. Symptoms can vary greatly for this type of amyloidosis, since there are almost 200 different genetic variations that can cause this type of amyloidosis. Each family with different hereditary forms of amyloidosis will have its own pattern of organ involvement, approximate age of onset, and associated symptoms. Family history is usually a key factor in recognizing and diagnosing this type of amyloidosis.