What is AL amyloidosis?
The term ‘amyloidosis’ is a general term used for a group of conditions where an abnormal protein, called amyloid, accumulates in the tissues. The build-up of amyloid protein is called an ‘amyloid deposit’. Deposits can occur in various organs or tissues and cause problems.
Facts about AL amyloidosis
- Amyloid can build up in the kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, nerves, or digestive system
- Amyloid can affect two or more organs at the same time
- AL amyloidosis does not affect the brain
- AL amyloidosis is a relatively rare condition, with approximately 500 – 600 people diagnosed in the UK each year
Different types of amyloidosis are named according to the type of amyloid protein which is produced. All begin with the initial ‘A’ which stands for amyloidosis. The ‘A’ is followed by one or more other letters, which identify the particular amyloid protein. For example: AL amyloidosis, AA amyloidosis and ATTR amyloidosis.
The ‘L’ in AL amyloidosis stands for ‘light chain’. Light chains are normally part of healthy antibodies (immunoglobulins), which are produced by healthy plasma cells. In AL amyloidosis, however, abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow produce light chains that form amyloid proteins.
The amyloid protein is only broken down very slowly by the body and so starts to build up in the tissues and organs. This gradually damages them and causes symptoms. This build-up can happen almost anywhere in the body; each patient has a different pattern of amyloid deposition, with different organs affected.