What is sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is a medical condition characterized by deposition of inflammatory cells in the form of nodules in different body parts namely lungs, lymph nodes, eyes and skin. The exact cause of sarcoidosis is not known but it is believed to arise when inflammatory cells of the body start producing antibodies against some unknown foreign substances. Women between the age group of 20 and 40 years are at increased risk of suffering from this disease. There is no cure available for sarcoidosis. However, most patients respond well to treatment even in some the symptoms may go away completely.

Symptoms of Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis leads to number of symptoms depending upon the organ involved. Lung symptoms include chronic dry cough along with difficulty in respiration along with noisy respiration (wheezing) and pain in the chest. Skin symptoms occur in about 25% of the patients and include :

  • Rashes characterized by appearance of reddish bumps, more commonly located on the overlying skin of shin bone or ankle. These lesions are typically warm to touch.
  • Sometimes frank ulceration may occur on the nose, cheeks and ears.
  • Affected skin appears darker in comparison to the normal skin area.
  • Sometimes nodule-like lesions may appear just beneath the skin more commonly around previous scar or tattoo marks.
  • Eye symptoms: in many patients there may not be any symptom however if present symptoms include blurring of vision, diminution of vision along with eye pain, poor tolerance to light, redness and increased watering from the affected eye.
  • Other generalized symptoms include generalized body ache, increased weakness, swelling of the lymph nodes (more commonly the cervical nodes), anemia and enlargement of the spleen.

Sarcoidosis Complications

In most of the patients of sarcoidosis usually the symptoms go away without any permanent damage however in some patients the condition may become chronic and lead to number of complications like irreversible damage of lung tissue, complete loss of vision, impaired kidney function ultimately leading to kidney failure, accumulation of inflammatory cells inside the heart may lead to abnormal rhythm generation which rarely may lead to sudden death and neurological problems like impaired function of different nerves like the optic and facial nerves and chronic inflammatory changes in the protective covering of the brain (meningitis).

Causes of Sarcoidosis

The exact cause is not however stimulation of the immune system leading to production antibodies and accumulation of inflammatory cells leading to formation of granuloma which are the most possible underlying cause behind symptoms of this disease. Certain genetic make up in some people may lead to increased predisposition to developing sarcoidosis following exposure to foreign substances like dust, certain chemicals or infective organisms like virus and bacteria.

Risk factors

Common risk factors include :

  • Gender: females are at slightly increase risk of suffering from sarcoidosis especially in the age group of 20 and 40 years, this condition is very rare in children.
  • African American people: the disease tends to take more aggressive form in these people.
  • Family history of sarcoidosis increases the risk about 5 times.

Sarcoidosis Treatment

There is no permanent cure for sarcoidosis. Although symptoms in many cases go away after treatment, the disease tend to recur in some, hence regular monitoring is essential. Steroids are the mainstay of treatment along with antimalarial drugs, tumor necrosis factor anti rejection therapy. In severe cases lung transplant may be required.

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