10 signs you might have amyloidosis

Amyloidosis — a rare condition that causes abnormal proteins to build up in your body tissues and organs — is often overlooked. That's because it may cause no symptoms at first. And when there are signs or symptoms, they can look like those of more-common diseases.

Amyloid proteins build up in different tissues and organs. Signs and symptoms will vary, depending on the type of amyloid protein you have, which tissue or organ is affected, and how much of your body is affected.

Diagnosis as early as possible can help prevent further organ damage caused by the protein buildup. So, it's important to talk with your doctor if you're experiencing any of these 10 possible signs and symptoms.

  1. Urine changes and swollen legs. If amyloidosis damages your kidneys, it can cause protein to leak from your blood into your urine. This may cause your urine to be foamy, or you may urinate less.

    When large amounts of protein leave your bloodstream and enter your urine, water can leak out of the blood vessels into your feet. This can cause your feet, ankles and calves to swell.

  2. Unintentional, significant weight loss. If you're losing protein from your blood, you may lose your appetite and, as a result, lose weight without trying.

    If amyloidosis affects your digestive system, it can also affect your ability to digest your food and absorb nutrients. It's common to lose 20 to 25 pounds.

  3. Severe fatigue. Feeling extremely tired is common with amyloidosis. Even small efforts may feel difficult.
  4. Shortness of breath. If amyloidosis affects your heart, it can limit your heart's ability to fill with blood between heartbeats. This means less blood is pumped with each beat, which may cause you to feel short of breath. Amyloidosis that affects the lungs also can cause shortness of breath.

    You may find it difficult to climb a flight of stairs or walk long distances without stopping to rest. You may also feel short of breath with even the slightest activity.

  5. Numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in your hands or feet. If amyloid proteins collect in and put pressure on the nerves to your fingers, you may have pain and other symptoms in your wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome). If the amyloid proteins collect in the nerves to your feet, you may have numbness, lack of feeling, or a burning sensation in your toes and soles of your feet.
  6. Diarrhea or constipation. If amyloidosis affects the nerves that control your bowels, you may have diarrhea or constipation.
  7. An enlarged tongue. Amyloidosis can cause your tongue to become enlarged. It can also cause other muscles, such as in your shoulders, to become enlarged.
  8. Skin changes. You may notice a waxy thickening of your skin; easy bruising of your face, eyelids or chest; or purplish patches around your eyes.
  9. Irregular heartbeat. If amyloidosis affects your heart's electrical system, it may disturb your heart's rhythm and cause an irregular heartbeat.
  10. Dizziness when standing. If the nerves that control your blood pressure are affected, you may feel dizzy or near fainting if you stand up too quickly.

Many of these signs and symptoms may be caused by other conditions. But if you experience any of them, talk with your doctor about whether they might be caused by amyloidosis. And if you have a family history of the condition, be sure to tell your doctor. Come to your appointment ready to discuss your symptoms and when they happen.

May 01, 2019 See more In-depth