Amyloidosis is not cancer, but it is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can occur because of some cancers. The basis of amyloidosis is the amyloid, which is an abnormal protein that enters tissues or organs. When enough amyloid proteins are present in an organ to interfere with its functioning and cause symptoms, it becomes a condition called amyloidosis.
Only in the past few decades have doctors and researchers begun to understand the nature of amyloid proteins and how they can cause damage. Research is ongoing to learn more.
Types of amyloidosis
There are different types of amyloidosis, including the following:
AL amyloidosis. This is the most common type of amyloidosis in the United States. The amyloid proteins that accumulate in the tissues in this condition are known as light (L) chains. AL amyloidosis is not usually associated with another underlying condition, although it is sometimes associated with multiple myeloma .
AA amyloidosis. In this condition, the amyloid protein that accumulates in the tissues is known as the A protein. AA amyloidosis is associated with such chronic diseases as diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease. It may also accompany aging. The spleen, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, and lymph nodes may be involved.
Hereditary amyloidosis (ATTR). Hereditary amyloidosis is rare. It is a specific type of amyloidosis that can be passed down from generation to generation in a family. It may cause peripheral sensory and motor neuropathy problems (issues relating to the central nervous system), carpal tunnel syndrome, and eye abnormalities. The most common subtypes involve the transthyretin (TTR) protein.
This section covers AL, AA, and hereditary amyloidosis. Other types of amyloidosis include Ã2 microglobulin amyloidosis, which occurs in some patients with chronic renal (kidney) problems, and localized forms of amyloidosis.
Find out more about basic terms used in this section .