Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that has been affecting many people of late. In sarcoidosis, tiny granulomas or inflammatory nodules appear in the various organs of the body. The lungs, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes are commonly affected by the condition. Sarcoidosis can also occur in the brain, heart, liver, spleen. The exact trigger for sarcoidosis is not very clearly understood. However, some studies suggest that sarcoidosis may be an outcome of the body reaction (immunological) towards certain allergens, chemicals, viruses or bacteria (foreign bodies).
It should be noted that
- Incidences of sarcoidosis are common among people in the age group of 20 – 40 years.
- People with a family history are more likely to be affected by sarcoidosis.
- Women are more susceptible to sarcoidosis than their male counterparts. The condition is common among the African-Americans.
Signs and symptoms:
The severity and appearance of symptoms depend on the organs affected by the condition. Symptoms of sarcoidosis may appear suddenly or develop gradually (there may also be a relapse). In few exceptions, the affected person may not exhibit any visible symptoms. The symptoms may vary from person to person.
In general, the symptoms include
- There is weight loss
- Extreme tiredness and exhaustion
- There may be swelling of the lymph nodes
Further, the symptoms may include
- Rashes, sores, and lesions that may appear on the nose, ears or cheeks, certain areas in the skin undergoes discoloration (Sarcoidosis affecting the skin).
- Breathlessness and chest pain, dry cough that continues for long and wheezing (In the case of the heart being affected).
- Palpitations and dyspnea, chest pain, edema, syncope or fainting and arrhythmias or irregular beating of the heart (Sarcoidosis affecting the heart).
- The eyes may appear red. The vision appears blurred. There is a pain in the eyes and light sensitivity (Sarcoidosis affecting the eyes).
Diagnosis and treatment:
- Physical examination and blood tests
- Eye tests can aid in the better diagnosis
- Kidney and liver function tests
- Imaging tests like CT scan, PET, X-rays, MRI
There are instances where sarcoidosis disappears on its own. However, if the condition persists, it is better to seek medical assistance.
Treatment for sarcoidosis include
- Immunosuppressant drugs: As the name suggests, the immunosuppressant drugs work by suppressing the immune response. Azathioprine and Methotrexate provide great relief from inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Corticosteroids are very effective against sarcoidosis.
- Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine) is often used to treat skin sarcoidosis.
- For patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis related inflammation, doctors recommend Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors.
- In the case of organ failure or damage, surgery may be the only option available.
In severe cases, or if left unattended for long, sarcoidosis can result in
- Cardiac problems, which may prove to be fatal.
- It can interfere with the normal functioning of the kidney.
- The lungs may be severely affected and scarred.
- There may eye inflammation leading to blindness.
- In some cases, sarcoidosis may affect the nervous system leading to paralysis (though rare).