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Amyloidosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Survival Rate

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/7/2010

Amyloidosis is a rare condition that many people do not know about. To learn more about the amyloidosis survival rate and other aspects of this condition, read on.

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    Amyloidosis is a rare condition in which amyloid proteins accumulate in the organs of the body. This protein is considered abnormal and is typically produced by bone marrow cells. It can accumulate in any organ or tissue. It most often affects the kidneys, spleen, gastrointestinal tract, heart, liver, and nervous system. The amyloidisis survival rate varies from patient to patient, but certain factors can help to determine it. The cause of this condition is unknown.

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    Symptoms of Amyloidosis

    The symptoms of this condition depend on what organs experience the accumulation of amyloid proteins. The symptoms can include:

    • Protein in the urine
    • Leg and ankle swelling
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Weakness
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Significant weight loss
    • Purple-colored patches surrounding the eyes
    • Shortness of breath
    • Skin changes
    • Tingling or numbness in the feet or hands
    • Enlarged tongue
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Severe fatigue
    • Feeling full quickly
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    Diagnosing Amyloidosis

    Doctors will begin by performing a thorough physical examination. This will include taking a personal medical history, family medical history, urinalysis, and blood testing. Urinalysis and blood tests can be good because they can tell the doctor whether amyloid protein is present, but these two tests cannot definitively diagnose this condition. A tissue biopsy is used to definitively diagnose this condition.

    If the doctor believes that several parts of the body are affected, he may biopsy a tissue sample from the bone marrow, salivary glands, rectum, abdominal fat, gums, or skin. To determine if this condition is affecting a specific organ, kidney or liver tissue may be biopsied.

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    Amyloidosis Treatment

    amyloidosis survival rate This condition cannot be cured, but there are treatments available to help manage the signs and symptoms. Some of these treatments can also help the limit more amyloid protein from being produced. Certain chemotherapy medications, such as Alkeran, and certain corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, can be used to treat amyloidosis. Stem cells, through a procedure known as peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, can be transplanted to replace bone marrow that has become damaged or diseased. These cells can be the patient's (autologous transplant) or they can be from a donor (allogeneic transplant).

    The amyloidosis survival rate is better for patients who have had chemotherapy than it is for those who have had stem cell transplantation.

    Treating secondary amyloidosis revolves around treating the underlying condition. For example, if a patient's rheumatoid arthritis caused this condition, they would be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to help treat the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis first and then if further treatment is needed for the amyoidosis, their doctor will do that second.

    Treating hereditary amyloidosis often involves a liver transplant. This is because the protein that causes this type of this condition is made in the liver.

    This condition can also cause a variety of complications so patients may also need to be treated for some of the complications as well. The treatment will be based on the complication, affected organs, and signs and symptoms. Some of these treatments may include organ transplants, kidney dialysis, dietary changes, diuretics, or pain medication.

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    Amyloidosis Prognosis

    The average survival rate for amyloidosis is two years after diagnosis. Approximately twenty percent of patients will survive for five years after diagnosis. Most patients will live for five to ten years after the onset of this condition. Those with the hereditary form can live for up to fifteen years after the onset of this condition.

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    Resources

    Mayo Clinic. (2009). Amyloidosis. Retrieved on March 19, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/amyloidosis/DS00431

    University of Maryland Medical Center. (2008). Amyloidosis. Retrieved on March 19, 2010 from the University of Maryland Medical Center: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/amyloidosis-000007.htm

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    Image Credits

    Phlebotomy Tray: Bubbels – sxc.hu