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Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a condition that is characterized by the growth and development of small groups of inflammatory cells in various regions of the body, especially in areas such as the lymph nodes, the skin, lungs and the eyes.

Studies indicate that sarcoidosis is an abnormal response of the immune system to something that is most probably inhaled from the atmosphere. The exact cause of such a response is unknown. Every individual has a varied life span for sarcoidosis. Sometimes the condition resolves on its own, while on other occasions the affected individuals may suffer a lifetime of sarcoidosis symptoms.

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Individuals affected by minor signs of sarcoidosis may only require some monitoring till the condition gets cured. However, in cases where the affected individuals are greatly distressed by the signs of sarcoidosis or if the critical organs are at greater risk, then the doctor may prescribe the use of anti-inflammatory drugs for effective treatment.

Sarcoidosis symptoms

The symptoms of sarcoidosis generally vary as per the time frame of the condition and the type of organs that are affected by the condition. Some cases of sarcoidosis may slowly elicit the symptoms and which may last for many years. On the other hand, some other cases may involve individuals who rapidly develop the signs of sarcoidosis along with their quick disappearance. Still other cases of sarcoidosis may not show any symptoms at all and the condition may be detected only during a routine checkup

Some of the generalized signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis are:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Most individuals affected by sarcoidosis get lung conditions which show following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Pain in the chest
  • Wheezing

N early 25 percent of sarcoidosis patients develop skin conditions which elicit the following symptoms:

  • The affected regions of skin may change color and become lighter or more pigmented
  • The ankles or shins may develop a rash consisting of reddish-purple or red lumps. The rash may be tender and warm to touch.
  • There may development of nodules or growths beneath the skin, especially around tattoos or scars.
  • The cheeks, nose and ears may develop skin sores or lesions that are disfiguring.

Most instances of sarcoidosis do affect the eyes, but may not yield any symptoms. Hence immediate attention of an eye doctor is required. Sarcoidosis may show the following eye symptoms, in case they occur:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe redness
  • Eye pain

Severe cases of sarcoidosis may result in many medical complications such as:

  • Any part of the eye can get affected by inflammation leading to blindness. In rare cases, sarcoidosis may also lead to the development of glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Pulmonary sarcoidosis, if left untreated can result in permanent damage of the tissue between the air sacs present in the lungs, leading to severe breathing problems.
  • Sarcoidosis affects the regulation of calcium by the body, increasing the risk for kidney failure
  • In rare cases, sarcoidosis may lead to the formation of granulomas in the spinal cord and the brain. Also, the facial nerves may become inflamed resulting in facial paralysis.
  • In rare cases, sarcoidosis may lead to the formation of granulomas in the heart which disrupts the cardiac signals. This can lead to irregular heart rhythms which is life threatening.
  • Sarcoidosis also affects the reproductive system. Men may become infertile due to abnormalities in the testes and women may face difficulties in conceiving.

Causes of sarcoidosis

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. It is believed that some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to the condition, which can get triggered by contact with certain chemicals, bacteria, dust or viruses. The genes and triggers associated with sarcoidosis are still a subject of study.

As such the immune system is designed to detect and fight harmful substances and organisms that invade the body. However, in individuals with sarcoidosis, the immune system instead forms tiny lumps known as granulomas, which affect the functionality of the affected organs.

Some of the risk factors that increase the vulnerability to developing the condition are as follows:

  • African Americans have a higher rate of sarcoidosis development and higher severity levels than White Americans and are more likely to develop skin problems.
  • Sarcoidosis is more prominent between the ages of twenty and forty
  • Women are at greater risk than men
  • A family history of sarcoidosis increased the risk
  • Individuals of Northern European ethnicity are at greater risk to develop the condition.

Sarcoidosis treatment

There is no cure for sarcoidosis. The treatment is aimed at alleviating the symptoms and limiting organ damage.

Most cases of sarcoidosis resolve with the passage of time, without any need for medications. In case, the condition results in discomfort or damages a vital organ, then the below mentioned treatment procedures may be employed:

  • Oral corticosteroids may be consumed to reduce the inflammation. Topical corticosteroids may be used to alleviate skin abnormalities
  • The activities of the immune system may be inhibited by immunosuppressant drugs
  • Skin diseases, elevated levels of blood-calcium and nervous system abnormalities may be treated with anti-malarial drugs
  • In certain cases, TNF-alpha inhibitors may also be used to treat the symptoms of sarcoidosis.
  • All the above drugs have some side effects and hence should be consumed at the advice of a doctor.
  • In case of severely damaged liver or lungs, surgical intervention may be required for organ transplant

Sarcoidosis pictures


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