What is Amyloidosis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 December 2018
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Amyloidosis is considered several diseases since it occurs under very different circumstances and may have varied outcomes depending on type. In these conditions, amyloid protein is not broken down successfully and begins to accumulate in various areas of the body. It can affect all areas of the body, or may merely build up in one organ, and the degree to which build up occurs and where it occurs can change treatment options and determine the seriousness of prognosis. The different types of this disease most commonly occur in people over the age of 40 and affect more men than women.

There are several types of amyloidosis, and the most common of these is called secondary. It occurs in people who usually have other diseases. These can include Crohn’s Disease, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple other conditions. Amyloid build-up may most often occur in the liver, lymph nodes, kidneys and tongue. Treating the primary disease may help slow progression of secondary amyloidosis or drive it into remission.

Primary amyloidosis is rarer, and usually isn’t present concurrently with other illnesses. It is a severe condition that can affect the tongue, heart, gastrointestinal tract, kidney and liver. When this condition becomes systemic, survival rate is poor, and death may occur within one to three years after the disease is noted.


Another form is hereditary, usually affecting people most once they over the age of 50, and which may most affect the heart and kidneys. Some elder adults suffer from amyloid buildup, which is gradual and may not occur until much later in life. This may be called a senile version of the condition.

Symptoms of amyloidosis may vary depending upon where the disease is present. If amyloid deposits have accumulated in major organs, they cause them to stiffen and lose function. Most often the heralding signs of this condition can be excessive amyloid deposits in urine, and organ failure not attributable to other causes. Presence of amyloidosis can be determined through a combination of blood tests, biopsies of organs and other scans and examinations to assess organ function.

There are few treatment options, and none available at present to fully cure amyloidosis. Most treatment will aim at treating the symptoms, and with secondary amyloidosis, treating the primary disease may arrest the condition. Still, people might require continued care or transplantation to compensate for organs severely damaged by amyloid deposits.

There are a few investigatory treatments that might extend life, some of them very encouraging. A combination of bone marrow transplant and injection of stem cells has greatly slowed progression of this illness in some people, in clinical trials. Another alternative, liver transplantation has some promise as potentially halting excess production of amyloid, since this protein is produced in the liver.



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