Amyloid Light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, primary systemic amyloidosis (PSA) or just primary amyloidosis is the most common form of systemicamyloidosis in the US. The disease is caused when a person's antibody-producing cells do not function properly and produce abnormal protein fibers made of components of antibodies called light chains. These light chains come together to form amyloid deposits in different organs which can cause serious damage to these organs. Abnormal light chains in blood and urine are sometimes referred to as "Bence Jones protein".
AL amyloidosis can affect a wide range of organs, and consequently present with a range of symptoms. The kidneys are the most commonly affected organ in AL amyloidosis. Symptoms of kidney disease and renal failure can include fluid retention, swelling, and shortness of breath. In addition to kidneys, AL amyloidosis may affect the heart, peripheral nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, blood, lungs and skin. Heart complications, which affect more than a third of AL patients, include heart failure and irregular heart beat. Other symptoms can include stroke, gastrointestinal disorders, enlarged liver, diminished spleen function, diminished function of the adrenal and other endocrine glands, skin color change or growths, lung problems, bleeding and bruising problems, fatigue and weight loss.
Median survival for patients diagnosed with AL amyloidosis was 13 months in the early 1990s, but had improved to c. 40 months a decade later.
AL amyloidosis is a rare disease; only 1200 to 3200 new cases are reported each year in the United States. Two thirds of patients with AL amyloidosis are male and less than 5% of patients are under 40 years of age.