Recent Blog Articles


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.  

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.