Amyloidosis is a condition that affects various body tissues and organs. But it’s much more complicated — and symptomatic — than it sounds. The symptoms and severity of amyloidosis can vary between individuals, although some symptoms are more common than others.
Read on to learn more about the ways amyloidosis can affect the body, and what you can do to manage these symptoms.
1. Kidney issues
Amyloid proteins can build up in the kidneys, the organs that are responsible for removing waste via the urine.
When your kidneys are overloaded with these proteins, they won’t work as well. This can lead to scarring, loss of protein, and eventually kidney failure.
Dialysis may make kidney function worse, so talk to your doctor about preservation of kidney function. Sometimes a kidney transplant is necessary. It’s possible to develop high blood pressure from kidney issues, so you may also need medications to lower it.
When amyloid proteins overwhelm your organs, you may not have the energy and strength you once had.
Amyloidosis can cause severe, unusual fatigue. You may not feel up to doing the activities you once enjoyed. You may even need frequent naps during the day.
It’s important to stay as active as comfortably possible, and to eat a healthy diet. Doing so can help combat some of your fatigue. Talk to your doctor to see what they recommend for you.
3. Reduced heart efficiency
Shortness of breath from amyloidosis has more to do with heart complications than it does your lungs. This is because the condition prevents your heart from pumping blood efficiently . Fluid collects in the lungs, which can cause a sensation of not having enough air flow.
Severe shortness of breath is considered a complication of amyloidosis, and you should call your doctor right away. They will likely prescribe heart medications to keep your heart working correctly.
Strenuous activities can worsen shortness of breath from amyloidosis. You should avoid such activities, but still stay moving with moderate-intensity activities such as walking. A stroll around the block can also improve fatigue.
4. Skin changes
Amyloidosis affects all body organs. This includes the body’s largest organ: your skin.
Some of the skin changes seen with amyloidosis include:
- purple patches around your eyes (periorbital purpura)
- thickened skin
- hair loss
- tongue thickening, along with an irregular shape
5. Nervous system symptoms
Amyloidosis can affect the nervous system, which controls several nerves and basic functions throughout the body.
Signs that amyloidosis is affecting the nervous system include:
- burning sensations in your feet
- numbness and tingling in your fingers and toes
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- lightheadedness or faintness upon standing up
Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat peripheral neuropathy, a complication of amyloidosis that can cause pain and numbness. If you have this in your feet, you’ll need to take extra care to prevent ulcers. This includes wearing the right socks and footwear, and making sure your feet stay clean and dry.
6. Bowel changes
With amyloidosis, you may have diarrhea, constipation, or both. There may also be blood in your stool. These symptoms can be accompanied by malabsorption of nutrients.
Ask your doctor if they have specific food recommendations for you to follow to help reduce bowel irritation.
7. Unintentional weight loss
Amyloidosis can cause unintentional weight loss. You may lose a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time. Swallowing difficulties and an enlarged tongue from amyloidosis can make eating uncomfortable, so you might be eating less than you intend to.
Speak with your doctor about ways you can make sure you’re getting enough energy and nutrients from your diet, including meal replacement drinks.
8. Fluid retention
Fluid retention is another possible symptom of this disease. Swelling in the feet and legs is common. Your doctor may recommend diuretics to help reduce fluid retention, so you can walk and fit into your shoes and clothing more comfortably. Sometimes a low-salt diet can also help.
While it’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated, drinking too much water can make fluid retention worse. Talk to your doctor about the amount of water you should be drinking based on your own hydration needs.
The symptoms of amyloidosis vary from person to person. They also can mimic other conditions. Combined, these two facts can make diagnosis and treatment difficult. On top of that, there may be slight variations in symptoms depending on the type of amyloidosis you have.
If you continue to experience any of the above symptoms, be sure to get in touch with your doctor. There’s no cure for amyloidosis, but treatment and lifestyle modifications can help ease your symptoms and prevent further complications.