Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that has harmful effects on multiple organs in the body, especially on the lungs and lymph glands. People affected with sarcoidosis develop abnormal masses or nodules, called granulomas, which consists of inflamed tissues in certain organs of the body. These granulomas may modify the normal structure and the function of the affected organ(s).
What Are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?
While the symptoms of sarcoidosis can vary greatly, most of the time patients complain about dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The symptoms vary depending on the organs that are affected. Other symptoms may include:
- Tender reddish bumps or blotches on the skin.
- Red, teary eyes or blurred vision.
- Swollen and painful joints.
- Enlarged and tender lymph glands in the armpits, neck, and groin.
- Enlarged lymph glands in the chest and around the lungs.
- Rough voice.
- Pain in the feet, hands, or other bony areas due to the formation of cysts in bones.
- Stone formation in the Kidneys.
- Enlarged liver.
- Development of abnormal or missed heart beats (arrhythmias), heart failure, or inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericarditis).
- Nervous system effects, including hearing loss, seizures, meningitis or psychiatric disorders (for example, depression, dementia, psychosis).
What Causes Sarcoidosis?
While the exact cause of sarcoidosis isn’t yet known, it is believed to be a type of an autoimmune disease associated with the abnormal response of the immune system. However, what triggers this response is uncertain. The procedure of transmission of sarcoidosis spreads from one part of the body to another is still being studied.
How Is Sarcoidosis Diagnosed?
Since all the symptoms and lab results can occur in other diseases, there is no single way to diagnose this disease. For this reason, the medical professional will carefully review your medical history and examine you thoroughly to determine if you have sarcoidosis. The main tools your doctor will use to diagnose sarcoidosis include:
- Chest X-rays
- CT Scan
- Pulmonary function (breathing) tests
How Is Sarcoidosis Treated?
There is no particular cure for sarcoidosis and the disease may get over time better on its own. In many cases of sarcoidosis, people have mild symptoms and do not need any such treatment. However, when the treatment is needed, it is given to minimize symptoms and to maintain the proper working order of the affected organs.
Treatment for sarcoidosis usually falls into two categories - maintenance of good health practices and drug treatment. Good health practices include:
- Getting regular check-ups with the doctor.
- Eating a well-balanced diet including a variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
- Drinking enough fluids every day
- Getting six to eight hours of sound sleep each night
- Exercising regularly and managing your weight
- Quit smoking
Medications are used to relieve symptoms and minimize the inflammation of the affected tissues. One of the most commonly used treatments is the oral corticosteroid prednisone. To improve the condition of fatigue and persistent cough, steroid treatment is usually given. However, in case of steroid prescription, you should see your doctor at regular intervals so that they can monitor the disease and the side effects of treatment.
What Can Happen As the Disease Progresses?
The disease appears briefly and then disappears in many people without the person even knowing they have the disease. 20% to 30% of people have some permanent lung damage. About a small percentage of people have chronic conditions. In several other cases, the disease may result in the worsening of the affected organ. In rare cases, sarcoidosis can be fatal. Death usually is the result of complications with the lungs, heart, or brain.