19 early warning signs of amyloidosis

19 early warning signs of amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is a lesser-known health condition where a protein called amyloid accumulates in various body tissues and organs. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential when this happens because an excessive buildup of this protein can lead to severe complications, such as nerve and kidney damage, in some cases. The good news is that amyloidosis symptoms can be identified in the initial stage, although they may differ from person to person.

Early warning signs of amyloidosis
Amyloidosis is often called a “great imitator” because its symptoms can mimic those of other, more common conditions. This can make diagnosis particularly challenging, underscoring the importance of recognizing the subtle hints the condition may offer in its early stages. Here are some early warning signs to be aware of:

Unexplained and persistent fatigue is often one of the earliest signs of amyloidosis. Amyloid deposits can accumulate in various organs, including the heart and kidneys. As a result, these organs may not function optimally, leading to fatigue. One may not find relief from the tiredness despite getting sufficient rest.

Swelling (edema)
Swelling, especially around the ankles and legs, is a common early symptom. It occurs when amyloid proteins accumulate in the tissues, leading to fluid retention. Any noticeable swelling demands evaluation from an expert.

Loss of appetite
Many with amyloidosis experience a loss of appetite, affecting metabolism and worsening existing fatigue. The patient might lack the strength to perform routine tasks.

Weakness and numbness
Weakness and numbness, particularly in the extremities, are early neurological symptoms. They occur when amyloid deposits in the nervous system damage the nerves.

Shortness of breath
The condition can affect the heart, causing symptoms like shortness of breath, especially during physical activity. Amyloid deposits in the heart can impair the organ’s ability to pump blood effectively, reducing oxygen delivery to the body.

Skin changes
Some people with amyloidosis notice skin changes, including easy bruising or a waxy appearance. It happens when amyloid proteins accumulate in the skin’s blood vessels, making them more fragile.

Enlarged tongue
An enlarged tongue, also called macroglossia, may occur if amyloidosis proteins accumulate in the tongue. It can result in speech difficulties and discomfort, lowering one’s quality of life.

Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome may develop due to the pressure amyloid deposits exert on the nerves. Amyloid buildup can compress the median nerve in the wrist, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms like numbness and tingling in the hands.

Gastrointestinal symptoms
The disorder can affect the digestive tract, resulting in symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, or difficulty swallowing. These discomforts occur when amyloid deposits accumulate in the gastrointestinal tissues, disrupting normal digestive processes.

Heart problems
Amyloidosis can lead to various heart-related complications, including irregular heart rhythms, congestive heart failure, and an enlarged heart. These problems result when amyloid deposits in the heart muscle impair the organ’s function and structure. Symptoms like irregular heart rhythms should never be ignored.

Kidney issues
Kidney issues are common among patients with this disorder. They can manifest as proteinuria (excessive protein in the urine) or kidney dysfunction. These complications arise when amyloid proteins accumulate in the kidneys, reducing organ function and protein leakage into the urine.

Orthostatic hypotension
Orthostatic hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up after sitting or lying down. Blood pressure regulation issues arise because amyloid deposits affect the autonomic nervous system.

Some individuals with amyloidosis may experience changes in their voice, such as hoarseness. This symptom usually occurs when the protein accumulates in the throat or vocal cords. Hoarseness can make it hard for people to communicate.

Malabsorption issues
Patients may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food, leading to deficiencies. It is a common problem when amyloidosis disrupts the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.

Enlarged liver or spleen
Amyloid deposits can accumulate in the liver or spleen, causing them to increase in size. The symptom is also known as hepatosplenomegaly. It can lead to pain and tenderness on the right side of the abdomen.

Vision changes
In some cases, amyloidosis can affect the eyes, leading to changes in vision. This happens when the amyloid protein accumulates in the eye tissues.

Skin itching
Itchy skin, known as pruritus, can occur in individuals with amyloidosis if the protein builds up in skin tissues.

Difficulty in balance and coordination
Some experience difficulties in balance and coordination due to nervous system involvement. They may need help walking to avoid the risk of falls and injuries.

Joint pain
Joint pain and stiffness can occur if amyloidosis triggers inflammation in the joints. The stiffness can reduce mobility, preventing patients from performing routine chores.

It is important to note that amyloids are abnormal proteins that can accumulate in any body part. When this occurs, it interferes with the normal functioning of several organs and tissues, such as the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system, and digestive tract, leading to a wide range of symptoms listed above.

The early warning signs of amyloidosis can sometimes be vague and nonspecific, often resembling more common health issues. However, seeking expert attention is crucial if a person or someone in the family experiences persistent or worsening symptoms. A visit to the healthcare professional is all the more necessary if multiple signs emerge simultaneously. Amyloidosis is a progressive condition, and early diagnosis and intervention can significantly impact the outcome.

When a person with symptoms visits a doctor, the expert may inquire about their health history, perform a physical examination, and order tests to determine the presence of amyloid deposits in the body. If the diagnosis is confirmed, they may develop a suitable treatment plan after considering the patient’s symptoms, the stage of the condition, and other factors.