What is Amyloidosis?
Amyloidosis is a rare disorder that affects one in a thousand adults. It occurs as a result of a buildup of amyloid — certain proteins which accumulate in some parts of the body. This accumulation affects organs so badly that it causes them to fail, over time. Amyloidosis is common to people who are 55 and above.
Symptoms of Amyloidosis
Unfortunately, amyloidosis is one of those health conditions that have symptoms that may not manifest until the disease gets to a terribly advanced stage. The symptoms of amyloidosis also vary, depending on the affected organ or point of amyloid proteins accumulation. Let`s take a look at the various categories of symptoms.
- Frequent loss of energy
- Skin bruises
- Joint pain
- Inflamed tongue
Heart and Lung-Related Symptoms
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Chest pain
- Short breath
- Reduced blood pressure
Stomach and Intestine-Related Symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Numbness in hands and legs
- Difficulty sensing temperatures
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice-related symptoms
- Foamy urine
- Swollen legs
Types of Amyloidosis
Generally speaking, amyloidosis occurs when the body is unable to break down amyloidosis proteins which accumulate, however, the pathogens differ, depending on the type of amyloidosis and where it affects. Let`s take a look at the types of amyloidosis.
A number of people who have autoimmune amyloidosis do so because they suffer an autoimmune disorder. Usually, people who suffer rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and tuberculosis are prone to autoimmune amyloidosis. The most affected organs are the kidneys, liver, heart, and intestines.
Light Chain Amyloidosis
Light chain amyloidosis occurs when the amyloid proteins form light chains, as the name implies. It is the most common type of amyloidosis. It usually builds up in the heart, liver, kidneys, and skin.
This type of amyloidosis occurs as a result of the mutation of a gene. It is hereditary. It affects the heart, liver, kidneys, and nerves. It is also called familial amyloidosis.
This is common with people who have had a series of dialysis treatments. It comes with pain and inflammation in the joints.
This type of amyloidosis affects the heart. It is common with men in their old age.
Risk Factors of Amyloidosis
There is no exception to people who can develop amyloidosis, however, some factors increase the risk of developing the disorder. Let`s take a look.
People who are 55 and above tend to be more susceptible to amyloidosis, especially light chain amyloidosis. It occurs in younger people, however, it`s rare.
People who have a family history of amyloidosis tend to have a higher risk of developing it.
Studies show that seven in 10 persons who have amyloidosis are male. It may be safe to conclude that the condition is more common with males.
Africans and African-Americans have a higher tendency of developing amyloidosis than people of other races. In Africa, heart-related amyloidosis is even more common than any other type of amyloidosis.
People who have damaged kidneys are prone to developing amyloidosis.
People who suffer autoimmune diseases have a higher risk of developing amyloidosis.
How to Diagnose Amyloidosis
Diagnosing amyloidosis is not an easy thing to do. It usually isn`t diagnosed early. This is because its symptoms are similar to those of some other diseases. People who have hereditary amyloidosis tend to have a relatively early diagnosis. When there is an early diagnosis of amyloidosis, it is to the patient`s advantage, as it helps avoid organ damage and some other complications as a result of early treatment. Let`s see how amyloidosis is diagnosed.
Blood and urine tests detect the presence of abnormal proteins. Tests of liver function are also helpful.
Forming images of organ systems helps to determine if amyloid deposits affect them. Also, electrocardiography (ECG) helps to ascertain electrical function and heart size.
A sample of cells from organs or parts of the body where amyloid deposits possibly are can be quite useful. Such areas are the kidneys, liver, bone marrow, or fatty cells in the abdomen area.
How to Treat Amyloidosis
There is no cure for amyloidosis, however, treatment helps ease its symptoms. We`ll discuss general medications and specific medications for some types of amyloidosis.
General Medications for Amyloidosis
- Anticoagulants to prevent excessive clotting
- Medications to treat nausea
- Diuretics to reduce fluid retention in cases of kidney damage
- Analgesic medications for pain relief
Amyloidosis Treatment According to its Types
Here, antibiotics may be helpful if the condition is bacterial, while anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful to manage autoimmune disorders.
Light Chain Amyloidosis
Usually, chemotherapeutic agents are used in treating light chain amyloidosis because they destroy cells that produce amyloidosis deposits. However, they have side effects such as interrupting the production of red blood cells and exhausting bone marrow stem cells. Doctors would usually do a bone marrow transplant after applying this treatment method.
Immunomodulators are also used to reduce the chances of organ rejection after a transplant. This is possible because they reduce the efficiency of the immune system; but of course, with the risk of being vulnerable to other health conditions.
Proteasome inhibitors are also used to treat light chain amyloidosis by blocking certain enzymes that break down proteins.
A liver transplant is usually used to treat hereditary amyloidosis as a result of abnormal proteins found in the liver of affected persons.
A change in the type of dialysis one receives is helpful in treating dialysis-related amyloidosis. Sometimes, a kidney transplant may be necessary.
Complementary Therapies for Amyloidosis
In addition to the treatments stated, there are natural ways of dealing with amyloidosis. Let`s take a look.
Reduced Salt Intake
Amyloidosis affects the kidneys` ability to retain protein, and the heart`s ability to pump blood. These may cause swelling. Reduced salt intake can help manage the swelling from fluid buildup.
Amyloidosis causes fatigue, hence disinterest in exercising. However, you need to exercise. Way forward? Find an activity that is not strenuous: something that keeps you moving. You could try walking programs, yoga, or some other activity your doctor recommends. Exercise will help you deal with pain and fatigue.
Irregular sleep patterns is a problem which patients may encounter as a result of fatigue. Over time, this may result in insomnia. Sleep therapy, meditation, and deep breathing exercises are quite helpful here.
There`s actually no amyloidosis diet, however, there are helpful diet modifications. Patients who experience bowel symptoms may need to stop consuming alcohol, coffee, and spices. Medical consultation is key, as the type of amyloidosis a patient experiences determines diet changes.
Pain and swelling can be terrible for people who have amyloidosis. A foot massage helps to increase blood flow to ease the symptoms.
Now That You Know…
Amyloidosis has no cure, hence early diagnosis and treatment are vital for the early prevention of complications. The complications worsen as the condition remains, and this can be disastrous for sufferers of the condition. This is why it is important to pay attention to the body and not ignore strange signs. The role of awareness too cannot be overemphasized. Being informed on the possible interpretations of a combination of symptoms is enough to drive one to seek immediate medical attention. As rare as amyloidosis is, people do suffer it. Spread the word and save a life!