Amyloidosis can affect different organs in different people, and there are different types of amyloid. Amyloidosis frequently affects the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system and digestive tract. Severe amyloidosis can lead to life-threatening organ failure. Many different proteins can lead to the formation of amyloid deposits, but only a few have been linked to significant health problems. The type of protein and where it collects determines the type of amyloidosis you have. Amyloid deposits may collect throughout your body or in just one area.
The modern way of classifying amyloidosis is based on the biochemical structure, i.e. the main fibril protein involved. The amyloidoses are referred to with 2 capital letters: a capital A (for amyloid) followed by an abbreviation for the fibril protein contained. For example, in a type of amyloidosis called light chain amyloidosis, the capital A stands for amyloid, and the capital L stands for the fibril protein which, in this type of amyloidosis, is immunoglobulin light chain or light chain fragment (abbreviated L), hence the abbreviation AL. The most common types of amyloidosis seen are the AL and AA types.
Amyloidosis is a relatively rare condition, with the number of new cases per year being about 8 in a million. Patients are usually affected after middle age, and the disease appears to affect all races equally. In developed countries, light chain amyloidosis (AL) is the most common type of systemic amyloidosis, while in developing countries another type called AA amyloidosis is more frequent.