Amyloidosis is a group of rare but serious conditions caused by deposits of abnormal protein, called amyloid, in tissues and organs throughout the body.

Proteins begin as a string of amino acids that fold themselves into a three-dimensional shape. This 'protein folding' allows them to perform useful functions within our cells.

Amyloid is a description of proteins which have folded abnormally and then collected together. In this form they do not break down as easily as normal proteins and can build up in tissues and organs.

If this build-up causes the tissues or organs to stop working properly, the resulting conditions are called amyloidosis.

The amyloid deposits occasionally only affect one part of the body (localised amyloidosis), but more often several different part of the body are affected (systemic amyloidosis), such as the heart, kidneys, liver, or nerves.

Without treatment to address the underlying cause, the amyloid deposits can eventually lead to organ failure and death sometimes within only a year or two.

There are around 30 different proteins that can misfold and form amyloid, which is why there are many different types of amyloidosis.

Overall, about 600 new cases of amyloidosis are diagnosed in the UK every year and most occur in older people.

This page will focus on the most common type in the UK, called AL amyloidosis (previously known as primary amyloidosis).

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 Jan 2017