Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease in which granulomas (clumps of inflammatory cells) develop in different organs of the body, resulting in organ inflammation and causes small, red patches of swollen tissue. Sarcoidosis may be triggered by your body’s immune system responding to foreign substances, such as viruses, bacteria, or chemicals.
Though this condition can affect any organ in your body, it’s more likely to affect some organs than others. It generally begins in the lungs, skin, and/or lymph nodes (especially the lymph nodes in your chest). Also, the disease often affects the eyes and liver. Although less common, sarcoidosis can affect the heart and brain, leading to serious complications.1
Although sarcoidosis affects people of all ages and races, it is more common in women than in men. But it most frequently occurs among African-Americans and people of Northern European descent. The cause is relatively unknown, but experts think that genes and the immune system may have a big role in the development of this condition. Treatment depends on the symptoms and the specific organs that are affected.2
What Causes Sarcoidosis?
The precise cause of sarcoidosis is not fully understood and more than one factor may play a role in causing the disease. But, gender, race, and genetics can increase the risk of developing the condition.3
Some experts suggest that sarcoidosis develops when your immune system responds to a trigger, such as viruses, bacteria, dust, or chemicals. Genetics also may play a role in sarcoidosis. Researchers suggest that sarcoidosis occurs if you have a particular gene or genes that increase your risk for the disease and if you’re exposed to a harmful substance that triggers your immune system. Even people with a family history of sarcoidosis may have a considerably higher risk of developing the disease.
Under normal conditions, our immune system works in a very interesting manner. The immune system protects the body from foreign or harmful substances and produces special cells to protect organs that are in danger. These cells, in turn, produce chemicals that recruit other cells to isolate and destroy the harmful substance.
This process causes inflammation and after the harmful substance is destroyed, the cells and the inflammation subside. But, in people with sarcoidosis, the inflammation remains and the immune system cells cluster together to form lumps called granulomas in different organs of the body.
Signs And Symptoms Of Sarcoidosis
Some people with sarcoidosis may not display any visible signs and symptoms. Symptoms may differ depending on the part of your body affected by the condition.4 Though it can occur in any organ, it usually affects the lungs. The symptoms can be categorized as general symptoms, lung symptoms, skin symptoms, eye symptoms, and nervous system symptoms.
1. General Symptoms
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Abdominal swelling
2. Lung Symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Chest pain around your breastbone
3. Skin Symptoms
- Raised scars
- Hair loss
4. Eye Symptoms
- Eye pain
- Dry eyes
- Discharge from the eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Vision loss
- Burning sensation in the eyes
5. Nervous System Symptoms
- Hearing loss
What Are The Treatment Options For Sarcoidosis?
Unfortunately, sarcoidosis cannot be cured. And, not all cases of sarcoidosis requires treatment as most symptoms usually improve without treatment. If the inflammation is severe, your physician may prescribe medications such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressive, which can help reduce inflammation.5
The necessity of a treatment, duration of the treatment, and the type of treatment required is dependent on the signs and symptoms, the organs that are affected, and the health of these organs. Often, topical treatments and/or medicines may be prescribed to treat the disease. Sometimes, if sarcoidosis affects organs such as your eyes, heart, or brain, treatment is necessary even if you don’t have any symptoms. The main purposes of the treatment include,
- Relieving the symptoms
- Improving the function of the organ(s)
- Controlling inflammation and reducing the size of granulomas
- Preventing pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring, if your lungs are affected)
|↑1||What Is Sarcoidosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2013.|
|↑2||What Do You Know About Sarcoidosis? National Institutes of Health. News In Health. 2015.|
|↑3||What Causes Sarcoidosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2013.|
|↑4||What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sarcoidosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2013.|
|↑5||How Is Sarcoidosis Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2013.|