Gino Odjick Diagnosed with Rare Illness: What’s AL amyloidosis?

July 12, 2014

Former Vancouver Canucks enforcer Gino Odjick revealed on Friday that he may only have months, possibly even weeks, to live, after being diagnosed with AL amyloidosis.

What is amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis occurs when plasma cells that are responsible for forming antibodies against bacteria and foreign proteins lose their ability to respond to signals from immune cells. The cells then divide and form abnormal proteins.

The disease causes one or more organ systems in the body to store deposits of abnormal proteins known as amyloid, which is disabling, or even life threatening, according to the Amyloidosis Foundation.

AL amyloidosis is usually associated with rapid disease progression, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Survival depends on:

  • How soon after the onset of symptoms you start treatment
  • The aggressiveness of the disease (which varies for each individual)
  • Which organs are involved and to what degree
  • The age and general health of the patient

What’s the cause?

AL amyloidosis is a rare disease; only 1,200 to 3,200 new cases are reported in the United States each year.  The cause of the disease is unknown.

Two-thirds of patients with AL amyloidosis are male and less than five per cent are under 40 years old.

In about two-thirds of patients with amyloidosis, there is no specific cause or disease related to the abnormal protein deposits. In less than five per cent of patients, amyloidosis is associated with another chronic disease, such as multiple myeloma, tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease.

Some forms of the disease are hereditary.

What are the symptoms of AL amyloidosis?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Heart damage
  • Swelling of the ankles and legs
  • A feeling of fullness in the stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Numbness of the arms and legs

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