Sarcoidosis – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment
Sarcoidosis is a disease characterized by the growth of small inflammatory cells in several body parts. It especially affects the eyes, lungs, lymph nodes, and skin.
Medical experts feel that sarcoidosis occurs when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, possibly inhaled from the air. No known cure is available for sarcoidosis; it mostly disappears on its own. The symptoms of this disease may continue for many years and at times cause injuries to varied organs.
Symptoms of Sarcoidosis
The symptoms of sarcoidosis differ as per the varying organs that get affected, and develop progressively often lasting for many years. At times, the symptoms may have a sudden onset and may fade away just as rapidly. Many patients show no symptoms and in such cases the disorder may be discovered during a routine x-ray for diagnosis of other conditions.
Some of the signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis are listed below:
- Fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and weight loss are commonly observed in patients.
- Lung problems with chronic dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain may also occur.
- Sarcoidosisaffects the skin and causes skin problems such as rash around the ankles and shins, color changes of affected skin areas,lesions, and formation of nodules.
- Sarcoidosis also affects the eyes without showing any symptoms. So it is important to have the eyes checked. Ocular anomalies may result in eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and excessive redness.
Though sarcoidosis is not always deadly, it is important to visit a doctor as it can have lasting damage on the organs.
Sarcoidosis can result in the below listed medical complications:
- Sarcoidosis affecting the lungs can permanently damage the tissue occurring between the air sacs, thereby causing breathing difficulties.
- Sarcoidosis affecting the kidneys may lead to kidney failure.
- Sarcoidosis affecting the eyes can cause glaucoma,cataract, and even blindness
- Sarcoidosis affecting the nervous system may retard the functioning of central nervous system, as well as cause inflammation in the facial nerves leading to facial paralysis.
- Sarcoidosisof the heart may obstruct the electrical signals vital for the heartbeat, thereby causing abnormal heart rhythms, and in rare cases, death.
Causes of Sarcoidosis
The exact cause of sarcoidosis is not known. It is presumed that the cause may be genetic which in turn can be triggered when the patient comes in contact with certain viruses or bacteria, or dust, chemicals, etc. Researchers are trying to find out the genes and the factors that trigger this disease.
The immune system protects the body from foreign substances and the invading microorganisms. But in sarcoidosis, some immune cells accumulate in a pattern of inflammation known as granulomas, eventually causing damage to the affected organ.
Sarcoidosis can affect anyone. However, individuals between the age group of 20 to 40 years are more likely to suffer from this disease. Females are at higher risk than males. The incidence rate for
Sarcoidosis is greater in African Americans than Caucasians. People with a family history of the condition are also at greater vulnerability.
Diagnosis of Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is difficult to diagnose because the disease elicits few signs and symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms occur, they vary as per the organ system that is affected and may be similar to the symptoms of other disorders.
Doctors will start with a physical examination and then check the heart,lungs, and the lymph nodes for swelling. He/she may also see your previous chest X-rays to check for signs of early sarcoidosis that may have been overlooked.
Diagnostic tests will help identify the body systems that may be affected by sarcoidosis. Doctors may recommend:
- X-rays to check for proof of lung anomalies or enlarged lymph nodes in the chest.
- MRI or PET, if sarcoidosis appears to have affected the central nervous system or the heart.
- A CT scan if he/she suspects presence of medical complications
- Blood tests to assess the overall health and the functioning of the liver and kidneys
- An eye exam to check for sight problems caused by sarcoidosis.
- Lung function tests to measure lung volume and the level of oxygen the lungs supply to the blood.
Biopsies:A tiny sample of tissue is removed from the affected part of your body to check for granulomas in a lab. Eye and skin biopsies are easy. Lung biopsies or lymph node biopsies are however done through a bronchoscopy wherein a thin, flexible tube with an attached camera is inserted down the throat to check for anomalies.
Treatment of Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis has no known cure. If it does not show major abnormalities then there is no need for treatment. Sarcoidosis often resolves on its own. But regular chest x-rays and monitoring of the skin, eyes, and other organs is essential.
Abnormalities of affected organs may be treated with below listed medications:
- Corticosteroids are the first-line of treatment for sarcoidosis. At times, corticosteroids can be used in the topical form,or with an inhaler for the lungs.
- Anti-malarial drugs can help alleviate problems of the nervous system, skin diseases, and increased blood-calcium levels.
- Anti-rejection drugs decrease inflammation by inhibiting the immune system.
- Tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors may be prescribed for treating rheumatoid arthritis related inflammation. It is also recommended when other treatment option for sarcoidosis fail to yield results.
Surgery:When sarcoidosis seriously damages the liver or the lungs, then organ transplant may be necessary.