Can you live a normal life with cardiac amyloidosis?

Published: Monday, February 13, 2023
Non-Invasive Cardiologist

You’ve been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis and have begun treatment. But what’s next?

Any time you receive a major medical diagnosis, it’s entirely normal to have many questions. You may wonder what’s ahead for you, including your overall prognosis.

While your team of medical providers can offer you more detail about your specific medical prognosis, we’re sharing some information about the condition, how it’s treated, and what life may look like after a diagnosis.

How Is Cardiac Amyloidosis Treated?

Cardiac amyloidosis occurs when a protein called an “amyloid” builds up in the heart tissue. Over time, this protein buildup can cause the heart to stiffen and restrict its function, causing a number of different heart health issues like heart failure, arrhythmias, and valvular disease.

If you have the condition, you may experience many different symptoms, such as dizziness, fluid buildup and swelling in the lower body, fatigue, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.

There are different types of cardiac amyloidosis, and treatment will vary depending on the type you have. The two most common types are light chain amyloidosis and transthyretin amyloidosis.

Light chain amyloidosis, also called AL amyloidosis, involves the bone marrow and light chain, which is one component in protein. Because of this, treatment uses chemotherapy and immunotherapy to target the plasma cells and keep them from producing abnormal light chain. Patients with this type of amyloidosis may also undergo stem cell transplants in some instances.

Transthyretin amyloidosis, also called ATTR amyloidosis, occurs when the liver produces malfunctioning proteins that break apart easily. Treatment works to keep the liver from producing those easily breakable proteins, usually in the form of medications to stabilize the protein or medications that prevent the liver from making that protein. Liver transplants are used in some cases for hereditary ATTR amyloidosis.

Because cardiac amyloidosis can cause a number of heart-related symptoms, those with the condition may also benefit from other types of treatment, including medications such as diuretics, devices to correct the heart’s rhythm, and the implementation of lifestyle changes.

How Long Can You Live With Cardiac Amyloidosis?

In the past, cardiac amyloidosis was essentially considered untreatable. If you were diagnosed with the condition back then, treatment may have simply included medications or other interventions to relieve symptoms.

Today, though, treatment is very different and focuses on the underlying cause. Innovations and advancements in what we know about the condition and how to prevent its negative effects have greatly changed the prognosis for those who are diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis.

Your specific prognosis will vary depending on many factors, including how well the interventions to treat the condition work. But in general, those who have cardiac amyloidosis often now live for years after diagnosis.

It’s important to keep a careful eye on your health, including the function of your heart. Regular checkups with your care team are essential and will help your medical providers make changes to your treatment plan as needed to prevent the progression of heart failure or other health issues.

Next Steps

Experiencing heart failure due to cardiac amyloidosis? The Heart Failure Center at Georgia Heart Institute offers a cardiac amyloidosis program with a personalized approach to treating your symptoms and improving your health. Call 770-848-7884 to learn more.