Amyloidosis And Multiple Myeloma

According to the Mayo Clinic (2010), up to 15 percent of people with multiple myeloma also develop amyloidosis. Although amyloidosis is not a form of cancer, it can have life-threatening complications.

What is Amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis and multiple myeloma are similar in that both are the result of the buildup of abnormal proteins. Amyloid is an abnormal protein usually produced in the bone marrow. Amyloidosis is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid proteins in the body’s organs and tissues.

Amyloidosis is a rare disease with no known cause. However, a number of risk factors appear to increase the risk of amyloidosis. These include:

  • Age (more common over the age of 40)
  • Family history
  • Gender (more common in males)
  • Kidney disease requiring dialysis
  • Multiple myeloma and other medical conditions.

Types of Amyloidosis

Primary amyloidosis is the most common type of amyloidosis disease. Although this condition is not usually associated with other illnesses, some people develop both primary amyloidosis and multiple myeloma. Amyloid buildup can occur in major organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Other common buildup sites include the blood vessels, intestines, skin and tongue.

Secondary amyloidosis disease can develop as a result of a chronic infectious disease such as tuberculosis, or a chronic inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. Amyloid buildup typically occurs in the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, lymph nodes and spleen.

Hereditary amyloidosis, or familial amyloidosis, is an inherited form of the disease. Amyloid generally accumulates in the heart, kidneys, liver and nerves, which can cause dysfunction of those organs and tissues.

Symptoms of Amyloidosis Disease

Some people with amyloidosis don’t experience any symptoms. For others, the condition is life threatening. The severity and nature of amyloidosis symptoms depend on which organs are affected. Symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Macroglossia (enlarged tongue)
  • Purpura (purplish patches around the eyes)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin changes (bruising more easily)
  • Swollen legs and ankles
  • Tingling sensations in hands and feet
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss.

Major amyloidosis complications include heart damage, kidney failure and nervous system damage.

Amyloidosis Disease Treatment

Although no cure for amyloidosis exists, treatment can help to limit the production of the amyloid protein and ease the symptoms of the disease. Primary amyloidosis is often treated with chemotherapy, drug therapy or stem cell transplantation. In some cases, surgically removal of the affected organ or an organ transplant can halt the progression of the disease.

For people with secondary amyloidosis, treating the associated disease is usually effective for treating amyloidosis as well. Doctors believe that hereditary amyloidosis originates in the liver, so a liver transplant may be a successful method of treatment in such cases.

Resources

Amyloidosis Foundation. (2004). What is amyloidosis? Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.amyloidosis.org/whatisit.asp

Cohen, A. S. (n.d.). Amyloidosis. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec25/ch304/ch304a.html

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Amyloidosis. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/amyloidosis/DS00431