Doctors classify amyloidosis into three major forms:

  • Primary amyloidosis. This most common form of amyloidosis can affect many areas, including your heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nerves, intestines, skin, tongue and blood vessels. Primary amyloidosis isn't associated with other diseases — except for multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer.

    The exact cause of primary amyloidosis is unknown, but doctors do know that the disease begins in your bone marrow. In addition to producing red and white blood cells and platelets, your bone marrow makes antibodies — proteins that protect you against infection and disease. After antibodies serve their function, your body breaks them down and recycles them. Amyloidosis occurs when cells in the bone marrow produce antibodies that can't be broken down. These antibodies then build up in your bloodstream. Ultimately, they leave your bloodstream and can deposit in your tissues as amyloid, interfering with normal function.

  • Secondary amyloidosis. This form occurs in association with chronic infectious or inflammatory diseases, such as tuberculosis, inflammatory arthritis or osteomyelitis, a bone infection. It primarily affects your kidneys, spleen, liver and lymph nodes, though other organs may be involved. Treatment of the underlying disease may help stop progression of this form of amyloidosis.
  • Hereditary (familial) amyloidosis. As the name implies, this form of amyloidosis is inherited. This type often affects the liver, nerves, heart and kidneys.
  • Dialysis-related amyloidosis (DRA). This form of amyloidosis develops when proteins in blood are deposited in joints and tendons, causing pain, stiffness and fluid in the joints, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition is most likely to affect people on long-term hemodialysis.
Aug. 06, 2011

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