What is amyloidosis?
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 though in some cases it develops due to chronic inflammation or a genetic mutation. 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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