Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that occurs in the organs of the body. This disease causes the accumulation of inflammatory cells in the organs, which would eventually form lumps, referred to as granuloma. Examples of the organs most affected by this disease include the heart, lungs, skin and so on. Sarcoidosis usually stars from the lungs, skin and lymph nodes, before affecting other organs of the body. The signs and symptoms presented by the patient depending on the organ affected. However, patients might present with mild or no symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms presented when the lungs are affected include coughing, wheezing, dyspnea, chest discomfort and so on. Some patients might also present with arthritis, erythema nodosum, fever, enlarged lymph nodes and so on. These conditions are collectively known as Lofgren syndrome.
The exact cause of sarcoidosis isn’t known yet. However, some factors that contribute to the development of the disease have been identified. Some of the factors include genetics and the environment. Studies have shown that some people are more genetically predisposed to developing sarcoidosis. People with a family history of the disease have a high risk of also presenting with the disease at some point in their lives. In addition, environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals, infection, all play important roles in the development of the disease. Scientists diagnose this disease by evaluating the signs and symptoms presented by the patient. Other tests that may be done to confirm the diagnosis is a biopsy, checking the blood calcium level, enlarged lymph nodes, raised the blood level of angiotensin-converting enzyme and so on. This disease is usually self-resolving. Although, there have been cases where patients experience the disease for a long time. In this case, physicians to prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Examples of these drugs include steroids such as prednisone. Other medications include methotrexate, azathioprine and so on. Researchers are working on ways to make use of shock therapy for the treatment of the disease.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?
As earlier mentioned, sarcoidosis is a disease that affects multiple organs. The signs and symptoms presented by the patient depending on the organ affected. On one hand, patients might remain asymptomatic for a long time. On the other hand, patients present with different severities of symptoms. Some of the general symptoms of sarcoidosis include the following:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Loss of weight
- Dry eyes and so on.
Below are some of the symptoms according to the organs affected:
- Lungs: The lungs are the organ, most commonly affected by sarcoidosis. Statistics have shown that over 90% of patients affected with this disease present with pulmonary lung conditions. This inflammatory process mostly occurs in the alveoli and its blood vessels. Some of the signs and symptoms of this disease include dry crackles. Patients also present with pulmonary arterial hypertension.
- Skin: Sarcoidosis also affects the skin. Studies have shown that this occurs in up to 37% of patients. It has also been shown that it occurs more in African Americans than in other races. Some of the skin symptoms include the development of erythema nodosum, subcutaneous nodules. Others include the development of plaques on the skin, maculopapular eruptions and so on. These skin conditions usually do not require any form of treatment, as they tend to self-resolve in less than a month.
- Heart: Sarcoidosis also affects the heart, however, this largely depends on the race of the individual. As an illustration, more than 25% of Japanese sarcoidosis patients present with heart symptoms. While the figure is usually about 5% in the Western world. Some of the symptoms of the disease include fatal ventricular arrhythmia, conduction abnormalities and so on. Cardiac sarcoidosis can also lead to the formation of granuloma, and the deposition of fluid in the interstitium of the heart.
- Eyes: Studies have shown that up to about 90% of sarcoidosis patients do present with eye problems. Some of the common manifestations include uveitis, inflammation of the retina, blindness and so on. Patients might also have the paralysis of the vagus nerve,
- Nervous system: This disease can affect any component of the nervous system. The condition where sarcoidosis affects the nervous system is known as neurosarcoidosis. Some of the signs and symptoms of the disease include peripheral facial nerve palsy, optic nerve dysfunction, palate dysfunction, chronic meningitis, and peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes insipidus can also occur as a complication of neurosarcoidosis.
What Are the Causes of Sarcoidosis?
The exact cause of sarcoidosis isn’t known yet, however, some factors that contribute to the development of the disease have been identified. Some of the factors include genetics and the environment. Studies have shown that some people are more genetically predisposed to developing sarcoidosis. People with a family history of the disease have a high risk of also presenting with the disease at some point in their lives. In addition, environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals, infection, all play important roles in the development of the disease. Scientists have also suggested that sarcoidosis occurs due to an abnormal immune response. However, a lot of studies are still ongoing.
What Are the Risk Factors of Sarcoidosis?
Some of the factors that increase the risk of developing this disease include the following;
- Race: Studies have shown that this occurs more in Africans, African-Americans than in other races.
- Age: This disease mostly occurs n people between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Gender: Generally, women are more affected than man.
How Is the Disease Diagnosed?
The first thing physicians do is to take the personal medical history and the family history of the patient. Then they evaluate and examine the patient. After the physical examination is done, the doctor would order for some tests, such as Chest X-rays, pulmonary function tests, bronchoscopy, CT scan and so on.
How Is Sarcoidosis Currently Treated?
There is no cure for this disease, however, this disease often resolves by itself, without any form of treatment, although this might take a while. Treatment is usually given to reduce the symptoms and make life more comfortable for the patients. Some of the medications used are methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine.
Bhagat, R., Rizzieri, D., Vredenburgh, J., Chao, N., and Folz, R. (2004). Pulmonary Sarcoidosis Following Stem Cell Transplantation. Chest, 126(2), pp.642-644.
Izaki, S. (2012). Cutaneous Sarcoidosis. The Japanese Journal of Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders, 32(1), pp.27-31.