May is Amyloidosis Awareness Month
This month we turn our awareness to a rare condition affecting tissues and organs in the body called Amyloidosis. We all have proteins in our body that when normal, perform vital functions on a cellular level. Proteins are a string of amino acids that fold into a three-dimensional shape.
Amyloids are proteins that fold abnormally and form a collection that do not break down. This collection of proteins build up and this can impair the function of tissues and organs which causes Amyloidosis.
Amyloids can be localised and affect one part of the body though mostly various body parts such as the heart, kidneys or liver can be affected. If left untreated organ failure can occur as the protein deposits increase which can cause death within two years.
Most common symptoms include kidney failure including fluid retention (oedema), tiredness, weakness and loss of appetite. Deposits that target the heart can cause enlargement and weakens the heart impairing the ability to pump blood around the body. Shortness of breath and heart failure may occur.
Other symptoms may include
Lightheadedness / fainting
Peripheral neuropathy (tingling feet / numbness)
Erectile dysfunction (men)
The Causes of Amyloidosis
Abnormal plasma cells found in the bone marrow means that too many proteins are produced called ‘light chains’. When misfolding light chains are produced, they group together into thread-like fibres that the body cannot get rid of.
These are the fibres that form deposits in the heart, kidney, nerves or liver. Abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow are usually benign but in some cases of AL are linked to a type of bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma).
In most cases chemotherapy is recommended so that the abnormal bone marrow cells can be damaged and stop the production of the abnormal proteins. Other treatment must take the chance of organ failure into account. Diuretic medication or dialysis may be needed to treat heart failure or kidney failure.
After chemotherapy it is advised that regular check ups are scheduled in every 6 to 12 months to monitor and mitigate any signs of a relapse.
If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your GP. For more information about Amyloidosis visit