For Patients – Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis causes a variety of symptoms, depending on the type of amyloidosis and the organs involved. In primary (AL) amyloidosis most commonly affected organs include the kidneys, heart, nervous system, and the gastrointestinal tract. Secondary (AA) amyloidosis most commonly affects the kidneys. In familial amyloidosis, the organs involved depend on the particular genetic mutation, but the most common are the nervous system and heart. Age-related amyloidosis primarily affects the heart.

Cardiac amyloid: When amyloid deposits in the heart it causes the heart muscle to become stiff. This can lead to a condition called heart failure, which can cause shortness of breath and accumulation of fluid, often leading to leg or abdominal swelling.

Kidney: When amyloid builds up in the kidneys it often cause a loss of protein into the urine, a condition called proteinuria. Patients with proteinuria often notice foamy urine. Proteinuria eventually leads to swelling of the ankles. Some patients may go on to develop kidney failure.

Nervous system: Deposition of amyloid fibrils into the nervous system causes damage to nerves, a condition known as neuropathy. The exact symptoms depend on the nerves involved. In peripheral neuropathy, patients often feel a loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and may experience a burning pain. Autonomic neuropathy, on the other hand, affects the nerves responsible for organ functions. In this situation patients may experience dizziness or loss of consciousness when standing up, diarrhea, constipation, or sexual dysfunction in males. Patients with amyloidosis may also develop carpal tunnel syndrome. In this condition the median nerve of the hand is compressed, causing pain and/or weakness in the hand.

Gastrointestinal system: Amyloid can deposit anywhere in the digestive system. This can lead to weight loss, bleeding in the intestines, and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation can occur due to involvement of the autonomic nervous system.

Other symptoms:

  • Enlargement of the tongue
  • Hoarseness
  • Bleeding or easy bruising
  • Skin and nail changes