An abnormal protein that builds up in organs such as the heart
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our heart or vascular specialists.
Amyloidosis is a disease that causes an abnormal protein called amyloid to build up in vital organs, such as the heart. This protein can be produced in the bone marrow.
There are several types of this disease, including:
- AL: Also known as immunoglobulin light chain amyloidosis, this type occurs when plasma cells in the bone marrow create antibodies with abnormal proteins. These proteins can’t be broken down, and they end up being deposited in the body’s organs.
- AA: This type usually affects the kidneys, but it also can affect the heart. AA amyloidosis can occur in people who have chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Hereditary: This type, passed down through families, involves a genetic change that causes the liver to make too much of a protein that carries thyroid hormones in the blood.
- Age-related: This type is similar to hereditary amyloidosis, but there is no genetic change involved. Instead, the liver protein builds up in the organs over time. This type tends to affect the hearts of older men.
Although this is a rare condition, our Cardiology Program providers are able to treat it. We provide comprehensive care for even the rarest heart problems.
What are the symptoms of amyloidosis?
When amyloid collects in the heart, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen feet or legs
What are the risk factors for amyloidosis?
Although anyone can develop amyloidosis, several factors can increase your risk for the disease. These include:
- Age: Most people with AL amyloidosis are older than 60
- Genetics: Family history of hereditary amyloidosis
- Inflammation: Chronic inflammatory diseases increase the risk for AA amyloidosis
- Race: People of African descent are more likely to carry a genetic mutation for the disease
Sex: Men are more likely to have both AL and age-related amyloidosis
An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.
Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart and chest wall.
The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.
An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.
An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.
In a heart biopsy, your doctor will remove small samples of your heart muscle tissue to monitor heart function or diagnose a problem.
Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.
Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms and chemically induced stress tests.
There is no cure for amyloidosis, but treatments can help with symptoms. Chemotherapy may be effective for patients with AL amyloidosis by destroying the cells that create amyloid. Treating the underlying inflammatory disease can be effective for patients with AA amyloidosis.
Treatments for heart failure such as medications, surgery and mechanical devices vary based on the cause and severity of your condition.