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Amyloidosis

Updated: December 19, 2018

What Is It?

Amyloidosis is a disease in which an abnormal protein called amyloid accumulates in body tissues and organs. The protein deposits can be in a single organ or dispersed throughout the body. The disease causes serious problems in the affected areas. As a result, people with amyloidosis in different body parts may experience different physical problems: 

  • Brain - Dementia 
  • Heart - Heart failure, an irregular or unstable heart rhythm, enlarged heart 
  • Kidneys - Kidney failure, protein in the urine 
  • Nervous system - Numbness, tingling or weakness from nerve disease 
  • Digestive system - Intestinal bleeding, intestinal obstruction, poor nutrient absorption 
  • Blood - Low blood counts, easy bruising or bleeding 
  • Pancreas - Diabetes 
  • Musculoskeletal system - Joint pain or swelling, weakness 
  • Skin - Lumps or purple discoloration 

No one knows what causes amyloidosis. To make matters more complex, amyloidosis is not a single disease, and there are many different types of amyloid proteins that can be involved. For example, Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a rare cause of dementia linked to viruses living in livestock) are two distinct conditions characterized by different types of amyloid deposits in the brain.  

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