What is amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis is a rare disease of the blood. It is so rare that the condition is difficult to research. Perhaps as few as one in one million people contract this disease.

Is amyloidosis cancer?

No, amyloidosis is not a form of cancer; however, the presence of this disease may indicate the presence of certain cancers of the blood, among them, multiple myeloma.

What does amyloidosis do?

Amyloidosis causes a buildup of a protein in the tissues and organs. This is not normal, and this buildup impedes the function of the organs involved.

Amyloidosis may be primary when it occurs for unknown reasons and secondary in response to chronic inflammatory diseases such as multiple myeloma, or Crohn's disease.

How does amyloidosis affect my intestines?

When amyloidosis affects the small intestines it renders it functionless from two perspectives.

Firstly, by causing diffuse infiltration it prevents normal muscular contractions and the intestine cannot propel its contents adequately. This will predispose it to bacterial overgrowth as well as poor mixing of luminal contents for digestion and absorption.

Secondly, amyloidosis will also infiltrate the lining of the intestine to such an extent that it will interfere with normal cell function and impedes digestion and absorption.

Amyloidosis can assume many forms:

  • AL amyloidosis — the most common in the United States, and is usually not associated with an underlying disease like Crohn's disease.
  • AA amyloidosis — usually associated with some form of underlying chronic disease
  • Hereditary amyloidosis — inherited

What are the risk factors for amyloidosis?

  • more common in men
  • more common over the age of forty
  • can be inherited

Diagnosing amyloidosis

Amyloidosis can be difficult to diagnose by virtue of the few people who get this disease. It is believed that many people go undiagnosed because the disease is so rare. Some tests may be given, including:

  • blood work to look for proteins
  • urine evaluation to look at kidney function
  • ultrasound to examine organs, especially size

Symptoms of amyloidosis

  • weight loss and fatigue
  • anemia
  • joint pain
  • kidney problems
  • abnormal liver function

Treatment for amyloidosis

Methods of treating a person with amyloidosis may include:

  • diet
  • medications, including steroids
  • chemotherapy to attack abnormal cells that are infected

Amyloidosis is a difficult disease to treat. Organ and bone marrow transplantation have been performed in people with advanced cases of this disease.

Is there a cure for amyloidosis?

Currently, there is no effective therapy for amyloidosis; however, the pace of research in digestive diseases is increasing, and that makes amyloidosis a disease that should be followed by those who suffer from this condition.