Amyloidosis (am-il-oyd-OH-sis) is a disease that causes proteins called amyloids to build up inside your organs and tissues. When these proteins build up, they form clumps that damage the tissue around them. These clumps can form in the kidneys, heart, brain, liver and intestines. When kidney tissue is permanently damaged, it is called chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD can lead to kidney failure.

The two types of amyloidosis that often affect the kidneys are called primary amyloidosis and dialysis-related amyloidosis. Doctors and researchers are not sure what causes primary amyloidosis. Dialysis-related amyloidosis happens to people who have kidney failure and have been on dialysis for a long time. Dialysis does a good job cleaning your blood, but it does not work as well as healthy kidneys. It cannot remove all of a protein called beta-2-microglobulin, so this protein builds up in the blood and forms clumps in organs and tissues.

The most common sign of primary amyloidosis is nephrotic syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that includes:

The most common symptoms of dialysis-related amyloidosis are:

  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in bones
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and fingers

If your doctor thinks you might have primary amyloidosis, you might need to have blood and urine tests and a kidney biopsy. If your doctor thinks you might have dialysis-related amyloidosis, you may need blood and urine tests , as well as imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans.

Both primary and dialysis-related amyloidosis can be treated. Primary amyloidosis can be treated using medicine called chemotherapy. It can also be treated by having a stem cell transplant. Other treatment can help you manage the side effects of primary amyloidosis. Dialysis-related amyloidosis can be treated using medicine, better hemodialysis filters, surgery or a kidney transplant.

More information about primary and dialysis-related amyloidosis is available from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.