Amyloidosis Disease Symptoms

Amyloidosis often has no symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms develop only after protein deposits begin to interfere with organ function. Amyloidosis symptoms are usually a function of the organs that are affected. Accordingly, signs of the disease are varied, making diagnosis difficult.

Proteinuria and Kidney Failure

Often, the first sign of amyloidosis is a positive proteinuria result on a standard urine test. Proteinuria indicates an excessive amount of protein in the urine. Protein buildup in the kidneys slowly compromises kidney function, and can eventually cause kidney failure. Symptoms and signs of amyloid accumulation in the kidneys include:

  • low urine output
  • edema (swelling of the hands or feet due to fluid retention)
  • proteinuria
  • high cholesterol that resists medical treatment
  • an aversion to high protein foods.

Heart Problems

Amyloid deposits can cause a number of heart problems. The heart is a common location for amyloidosis. Protein accumulations can result in shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure. Report any rapid heartbeat or breathing problem to your doctor immediately.

Skin Conditions

Fifty percent of people living with amyloidosis experience adverse skin conditions. The most common varieties are raised papules, or bumps. The papules are waxy, and may develop in a number of locations:

  • anus
  • armpits
  • ears
  • face
  • groin
  • neck
  • tongue.

A second variety of skin lesion called cutaneous lichen amyloidosis may develop due to accumulations of a keratin-like protein.

Approximately fifteen percent of individuals with amyloidosis develop purpura. Purpura are purple blotches that appear on the skin, and are caused by small blood vessels leaking just below the skin.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Protein deposits can interfere with the gastrointestinal system, causing abdominal pain, malnutrition and internal bleeding. Either constipation or diarrhea may be experienced, and stool may appear clay-colored. Diarrhea and constipation may also be signs of damage to nerves in the urinary tract or rectum.

About ten percent of people who experience gastrointestinal amyloidosis develop an enlarged tongue. The tongue becomes noticeably larger than normal, is thicker, and may also be inflamed.

Nerve Damage

Hereditary amyloidosis usually affects the nerves. Degeneration of the nerves due to protein accumulation is gradual, but progressive. Over time, nerve damage may present through a number of symptoms:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • inflammation
  • muscular weakness
  • numbness
  • unusual sensations (pins and needles).

Respiratory System Difficulties

Amyloidosis in the respiratory system can cause nodules to develop in the lungs, making breathing difficult. Wheezing, difficulty breathing and a hoarse voice are all signs of protein accumulation in the trachea, larynx or sinuses.

Enlarged Liver and Spleen

Both the liver and the spleen may enlarge due to amyloid deposits, reducing organ function. Excessive protein accumulation in the spleen can cause the organ to rupture.