What Is Abercrombie Disease?

Kathleen Howard

Abercrombie disease is a condition that goes by several different names, including Abercrombie's syndrome, Abercrombie's disease, waxy disease, cellulose disease, Virchow's syndrome, bacony disease, hyaloid disease and lardaceous disease. This condition occurs when amyloid permeates the fibers or cells of a tissue and causes degeneration. Amyloid degeneration most commonly occurs in the spleen, kidneys and liver, though it can affect any tissue. As the tissue continues to degenerate, it will lose some or all of its normal functioning. Since the symptoms of Abercrombie disease are often vague, this condition might not be diagnosed until a significant amount of degeneration has occurred.

Individuals suffering from amyloid degeneration of the kidneys may experience increased urine production and bad breath.
Individuals suffering from amyloid degeneration of the kidneys may experience increased urine production and bad breath.

Amyloid is a waxy protein containing starch and cellulose. This protein is insoluble, which means that it cannot be dissolved or broken down. When amyloid penetrates an organ, it will usually become deposited in the connective tissue cells and the capillary walls. Amyloid degeneration may occur in large portions of an organ or in tiny nodules the approximate size of a pinhead.

The spleen is one of the organs commonly affected by Abercrombie disease.
The spleen is one of the organs commonly affected by Abercrombie disease.

Organs affected by Abercrombie disease will typically become enlarged, smooth and hard. The tissue will take on a slightly white or yellow translucent appearance, similar to a bacon rind. Within the tissue, the cortex will also be bloodless. When the blood vessels or muscular overlay of an artery are affected, the tissue will thicken and become transparent. Commonly affected organs include the spleen, kidneys, pancreas and liver. Almost any organ or bodily tissue, however, can become affected by Abercrombie disease.

Amyloid degeneration most commonly occurs in the kidneys.
Amyloid degeneration most commonly occurs in the kidneys.

As of 2011, the exact cause of amyloid degeneration is not entirely known. It is believed to be caused, at least to some extent, by changes in one’s blood plasma. These changes inhibit the cells from receiving the nutrition necessary to generate healthy tissue. Many times, people suffering from Abercrombie disease are also suffering from another wasting condition or disease.

The symptoms of Abercrombie disease vary according to the tissue or organ affected. Since sufferers of this condition are commonly suffering from other wasting diseases, a person’s symptoms might be overlooked. People suffering from amyloid degeneration of the kidneys may notice increased urine production, vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath, and edema. Those suffering from degeneration in other organs might notice similar symptoms or even symptoms more specific to the organ’s function.

To test for waxy degeneration, a physician will drop an iodine solution on the affected tissue. If the solution turns a deep mahogany, amyloid is present in the tissue. When tested on normal tissue, the solution will make the tissue appear more yellowish. While this test can be used, Abercrombie disease is often apparent when looking at the affected tissue.

The problem with Abercrombie disease is that the condition is not usually realized until one or more organs have suffered significant degeneration. In some cases, the condition might not be found until a patient is examined post-mortem. If the condition is diagnosed, patients will usually undergo treatment to improve the quality of their blood. Patients might also be advised to consume a nutritious diet and get regular exercise to inhibit further degeneration.

The liver may be affected by Abercrombie disease and become enlarged.
The liver may be affected by Abercrombie disease and become enlarged.

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