Sarcoidosis was once thought to be a rare disease. Even now, when it is widely known that it actually affects tens of thousands of individuals, not many people understand the disease. Some who even commit to a healthy lifestyle and have it, are not even aware that they do.
The specific cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. It is a chronic disease which involves enlargement of the lymph nodes and the formation of fleshy lumps called granulomas. Sarcoidosis commonly affects the lungs, but may also affect the eyes, skin, and rarely, other tissues. It has the tendency to occur in multiple organs at the same time. When the granulomas form on an organ, it can affect the organ’s normal functions.
Affected individuals may have an active or inactive phase of the disease. When the infected person develops the symptoms of sarcoidosis, they have the active phase of the disease. The granulomas cause scar tissue to form on the affected organs and cause inflammation. The inactive period of sarcoidosis, or the remissive period, also causes scar formation and the person can also display the symptoms. However, the organs do not get inflammed and the granulomas can either stay the same size or shrink.
Symptoms of Sarcoidosis
The more common symptoms of sarcoidosis are:
- Red and watery eyes;
- Persistent cough;
- Weight loss;
- Shortness of breath;
- Small red bumps on the face, buttocks, or arms; and
- Arthritis, if the bumps occur over the shins
However, the symptoms of the disease vary from one person to the next. Factors of variation include which organs are infected by granulomas, the length of time that the body has been infected, and how severe the disease is.
Some individuals do not even know that they are infected because the symptoms are mild and disappear on their own. Severe symptoms may result in inflammatory conditions, like pneumonia, that may require hospitalization. The symptoms take time to develop and cause problems that last for many years.
Cause of Sarcoidosis
The exact cause of sarcoidosis is not known. However, because it is a form of autoimmune disease, it is possible that sarcoidosis develops when the immune system overreacts to a toxin or pathogen that is breathed in. The granulomas form when the white blood cells react too strongly to the foreign bodies and, as the granulomas continue to grow, they damage the healthy tissue of the organ and form scars.
Who are at Risk
Sarcoidosis can affect anyone, but the incidences of infection are higher among African-American adults or those of Scandinavian, German, Irish, and Puerto Rican descent. Individuals between 20 and 40 years of age are more susceptible to being affected. It is difficult to know exactly how many people have the disease because the symptoms may be misdiagnosed as other inflammatory conditions.
There is no known cure for the disease because it is not clear why it progresses. Some individuals can continue to live normal lives if they only have very mild symptoms. But if an individual suspects that they have the condition, he should immediately seek medical attention to confirm and get treatment for the symptoms. If an individual has already been diagnosed with the disease, he should also get medical attention every time he displays the symptoms. Sarcoidosis in women may cause difficulty in getting pregnant and in the pregnancy itself. Bed rest is highly recommended for pregnant women during their third trimester. Treatment for sarcoidosis while pregnant does not harm the baby.
People with sarcoidosis can now get support from a number of lung and nonprofit organizations. Always consult your doctor for any questions or concerns you may have about the disease.