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Amyloidosis

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There are many strange diseases in the world today, but one of the most uncommon and difficult to cope with is Amyloidosis. It affects the major organs of the body by producing proteins that breakdown the organs’ ability to function. This disease can make everyday life a struggle for the afflicted individual. Having certain symptoms can lead to some tests and procedures before it is diagnosed. To date, Amyloidosis cannot be cured, but it can be treated to prolong the patient’s life. Amyloidosis has some specific characteristics that differentiate it from other illnesses in order to treat someone with this life changing disease.
The disease has devastating effects on the diagnosed individual. When an amyloid (a type of abnormal protein) enters into tissues or organs and builds up over time, it starts to interfere with the function of the organ, and it becomes known as Amyloidosis. “There are several different kinds of Amyloidosis, such as the most common in the United States, AL Amyloidosis, which is when the proteins accumulated in the tissues are known as light (L) chains; also, AA Amyloidosis is associated with such chronic diseases as diabetes and tuberculosis. Other forms of the disease can be compared to certain forms of cancer. “Not much was known about Amyloidosis until the past few decades, when scientists began to understand the nature of the amyloid and the damage that it causes to the organ systems that it inhabits” (ASCO). The disease Amyloidosis has some interesting characteristics that define this disease to medical personnel and patients alike. There was not a lot of information about it although and many doctors failed to consider it when diagnosing their patients.
When a patient is diagnosed with Amyloidosis, there are many tests that can be done that will determine what parts of the body are affected, and what needs to be done for the patient to prolong their life. As one patient reports “ I went downhill to retrieve a ball, and when I started to climb and return, I became very lightheaded and began seeing a million white spots in front of my eyes”(Caliguiri). Early symptoms may include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, anemia, weak handgrip, skin changes, and joint pain; problems breathing may indicate Amyloidosis in the lungs, and an irregular heartbeat may indicate it being in the heart. The best way to determine if one has Amyloidosis is a biopsy; a small amount of tissue is removed for examination under the microscope. The majority of people who are diagnosed are older than 40, and men are more likely to be diagnosed than women. The disease may be hereditary; scientists are not sure how it is acquired. “Only about 1200 to 3200 people are diagnosed per year in the United States” (ASCO). Its diagnosis can be very disheartening because of the grim prognosis and because there isn’t a known specific cause, it makes it even more difficult.

There is no known cure for Amyloidosis, but there are some treatments to help prolong and make life easier for the afflicted individual. One way of treating this difficult disease is through medication and chemotherapy. The medication can control the problems associated with Amyloidosis, Steroids, either alone or with other drugs have shown to be effective. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill abnormal cells, usually by stopping the cells ability to grow and divide and is commonly used for the treatment of cancer. Surgery can be performed to transplant affected organs. The most recent common form of treatment is stem cell transplantation or bone marrow; this transplantation is a procedure where diseased bone marrow is replaced by specialized cells called hematopoietic stem cells. A long-term follow-up plan includes regular and careful monitoring of liver and kidney function. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and having recommended screening tests are also part of most follow-up plans. The treatment options are designed to fit the needs of each patient and their diverse medical situation.
The disease Amyloidosis has distinguished characteristics that define it for diagnosis and treatment. The characteristics of this disease are very important parts of how people define and understand the disease today. Diagnosis is a huge part of this disease and causes a life-changing experience for the individual. The treatment can be very difficult because of the many options that will only prolong, not cure the patient’s life. My grandfather was diagnosed with this disease and was given a year to live. This is a terrible disease that cannot only change a person’s life, but also reshape their families along with it.



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