What is Sarcoidosis

What is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects one or more organs but most commonly affects the lungs and lymph glands. As a result of the inflammation, abnormal lumps or nodules (called granulomas) form in one or more organs of the body. These granulomas may change the normal structure and possibly the function of the affected organ(s).

 

What causes Sarcoidosis?

The exact cause of Sarcoidosis is not known. The disease can appear suddenly and then disappear, or it can develop gradually and produce symptoms that come and go for a lifetime.

Researchers believe that the disease is caused by an abnormal immune response. (The body’s defense system does not react as it should to a foreign substance "intruder.") In a healthy person, inflammation occurs as the cells of the body’s immune system come together to fight the intruder at an organ or tissue site. In a person with Sarcoidosis, however, cells that come to fight end up clumping together into small lumps called granulomas.

It’s still uncertain which foreign substance "triggers" the body’s abnormal response. Some researchers suggest that fungi, viruses, or bacteria are likely triggers. In fact, cases of Sarcoidosis have occurred in groups of people who had close contact with each other, as well as in recipients of heart, lung and bone marrow transplants. But, so far, no data have been able to convincingly and consistently establish this "infectious" connection as the cause of the disease. However, some types of bacteria have recently emerged as possible candidates and continue to be closely studied.

What are the symptoms of Sarcoidosis?

The symptoms of Sarcoidosis can vary greatly from individual to individual, and depend on which tissues and organs are affected. In some people, symptoms may begin suddenly and/or severely and subside in a short period of time. Others may have no outward symptoms at all, even though organs are affected. Still others may have symptoms that appear slowly and subtly, but last or recur over a long time span.

Most common initial symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

  • Cough that won’t go away

  • Reddish bumps or patches on the skin or under the skin

  • Enlarged lymph glands in the chest and around the lungs that produces cough and shortness of breath

  • Fever, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, general feeling of ill health

Other disease characteristics include:

  • Red and teary eyes or blurred vision

  • Swollen and painful joints

  • Enlarged lymph glands in the neck, armpits, and groin

  • Nasal stuffiness and hoarse voice

  • Pain in the hands, feet, or other bony areas due to the formation of cysts (an abnormal sac-like growth) in bones

  • Kidney stone formation

  • Development of abnormal or missed beats (arrhythmia's), inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericarditis), or heart failure

  • Nervous system effects include hearing loss, meningitis, seizures or psychiatric disorders (for example, dementia, depression, psychosis)

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