AL Amyloidosis

(Amyloid Light Chain)


Amyloidosis is a buildup of abnormal proteins called amyloids. Amyloid proteins can not be broken down by the body and eventually build up in certain tissue of the body. A buildup in organs like the heart, liver, kidneys and nerves can lead to symptoms and life-threatening complications. There are several types of amyloidosis based on the specific type of protein that is involved. The most common type of amyloidosis is AL or light chain amyloidosis. It is an abnormal form of antibody proteins.


AL amyloidosis is caused by problems with certain cells in the bone marrow. These cells make blood products including a type of protein called antibodies or immunoglobulins. Certain conditions will interfere with how the antibody proteins develop. The antibodies misfold which leads to amyloid pieces. The amyloids travel in the blood and deposit into tissue and organs. Since the body can not break down the amyloids, they build up in the tissue. Eventually the amyloids cause tissue damage and interfere with how it functions.

Risk Factors

AL amyloidosis is most common in people 50-80 years of age. It is also more common in men than women. Conditions that may be associated with AL amyloidosis include:There may also be a link between AL amyloidosis and exposure to certain weed killers or agent orange.


Symptoms can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling
Other symptoms will depend on the extent of the disease and the organ that is affected. For example:
  • Heart deposits—can cause stiffness in the heart which can lead to shortness of breath even with minor activities. May also cause abnormal rhythms of the heart.
  • Digestive system deposits—can lead to nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or feeling full even after eating small amounts.
  • Deposits in nerves of hands or feet—can cause tingling, pain or numbness.
  • Deposits in nerves that control body functions like blood pressure and heart rate can cause abnormalities that result in light-headedness (dizziness)
  • Kidney deposits—can cause swelling in legs, belly, and arms. Can eventually lead to kidney failure.
Edema in Lower Legs
Pedal Edema
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Swelling in other tissue can also lead to symptoms such as:
  • Carpal tunnel—from deposits in the wrist
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Restriction in shoulder movement because of swelling in the joint

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