Sarcoidosis is a disease of unknown origin that causes inflammation in the organs. As the body tries to fight off harmful or foreign substances, cells are released to protect the targeted organ. These cells create inflammation by releasing recruitment chemicals. Normally once the harmful substance is gone, the inflammation goes away as well. With sarcoidosis, the inflammation remains along with some cell clusters, forming lumps called granulomas.
Why it is Problematic
Some people who experience sarcoidosis recover with few or no long-term problems. More than half experience remission within three years, and two-thirds will face remission within 10 years. Sarcoidosis can target more than one organ.
Poor outcomes are more likely in individuals with advanced liver disease who show little improvement from treatment. The risk of death is greater when sarcoidosis has targeted the brain, lungs, or heart.
Causes and Risk Factors
Though the cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, some experts believe that it is triggered by bacteria, viruses, dust, chemicals, or genetic factors. It may also be caused by an abnormal immune system response.
Sarcoidosis often has no symptoms and it is often detected when a chest X-ray is performed for another reason. When symptoms are present, they may include:
- Bone and joint pain
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, chest, groin, armpits or chin
- Discolored skin that itches or burns but does not hurt
- Eye problems, includinglight sensitivity, tearing pain, burning, and itching
- Lupus pernio(a chronic, raised hard lesion on the skin that is red or purple in color)
- Lung symptoms such a chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and persistent dry cough
In order to make a diagnosis,a doctor collects the patient's full medical history, including informationto determine the risks associatedwith genetic factors and workplace environment. This is to determine whether an individual may have been exposed to organic dust from hay, birds, or beryllium(a metal used to make weapons and aircraft).
A physical exam to look for red bumps on the skin; swollen lymph nodes;an enlarged liver, spleen, or salivary glands; or red eyes will assist the doctor in a diagnosis of sarcoidosis.
Treatment and Prevention
Not all cases of sarcoidosis require treatment. Relieving symptoms caused by sarcoidosis is the goal of treatment. Methods that improve organ function, reduce granuloma size, and controlinflammation are accentuated.
Taking medications as prescribed is very important if organ function is threatened.
Behavioral modifications may be necessary to treat sarcoidosis. Some important modifications include:
- Smoking cessation
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a well-balanced diet
- Avoiding environmental or workplace pollutants
Sarcoidosis is most common in those of African or Northern European descent. Women are more likely than men to have sarcoidosis. Typically, individuals are diagnosed with sarcoidosis between the ages of 20 and 50. It appears that sarcoidosis may run in families.