What are the causes of sarcoidosis?
- A person with a close blood relative who has sarcoidosis is nearly 5 times as likely to develop the condition.
- The disease can appear suddenly and then disappear, or it can develop gradually and produce symptoms that come and go for a lifetime.
- Sarcoidosis may be an abnormal response to a germ by the body.
Sarcoidosis is a result of an abnormal immune system, where the body starts to attack its own tissues and organs. The resulting swelling then causes granulomas to develop in the organs. Some possible triggers include:
- Environmental factor or allergies
- Exposure to virus, fungi, or bacteria
- Exposure to chemicals
- Patients who had recent organ transplantation
- It is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40
- The disease is slightly more common in women than in men.
- The disease is 10 to 17 times more common in African-Americans than in Caucasians. People of Scandinavian, German, Irish, or Puerto Rican origin are also more prone to the disease.
The condition is not infectious, so it cannot be passed from person to person.
What is sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a rare condition that causes small patches of red and swollen tissue (granulomas) to develop in the organs of the body. It usually affects the lungs and skin. This condition may change the normal structure and possibly the function of an affected organ. The symptoms of sarcoidosis include:
- Reddish tender bumps or patches on the skin.
- Red and teary eyes or blurred vision.
- Swollen and painful joints.
- Enlarged and tender lymph glands in the neck, armpits, and groin.
- Enlarged lymph glands in the chest and around the lungs.
- Hoarse voice.
- Pain in the hands, feet, or other bony areas due to the formation of cysts (an abnormal sac-like growth) in bones.
- Weight loss
- Dry cough and shortness of breath
- Kidney stone formation.
- Enlarged liver.
- Development of abnormal or missed heartbeats (arrhythmias), inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericarditis), or heart failure.
- Nervous system effects, including hearing loss, meningitis, seizures, or psychiatric disorders (for example, dementia, depression, psychosis).
Can sarcoidosis be treated?
There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but the disease may get better on its own over time. Sarcoidosis symptoms will often get better without treatment. Treatment is aimed at maintaining good lung function, reducing symptoms, and preventing organ damage.
- Corticosteroids: The most common corticosteroid prescribed for sarcoidosis is prednisone. This may reduce inflammation and slow the growth of the granulomas.
- Methotrexate: This medicine may be given to people who cannot take corticosteroids. It also may be used with corticosteroids if needed.
- Azathioprine, hydroxychloroquine, chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide, and pentoxifylline are other drugs that may be used if corticosteroids and methotrexate are not effective.
- Thalidomide and minocycline have been used in some cases of skin sarcoidosis.
- Infliximab is a new treatment that has proved useful for chronic sarcoidosis but is currently a drug to use only when standard treatments have failed.
Medicines commonly used to treat sarcoidosis may cause side effects. Side effects range from those that are mild, to those that are severe and potentially dangerous. Hence medical attention is constantly required.
- Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Drinking enough fluids every day
- Getting six to eight hours of sleep each night
- Exercising regularly and managing your weight
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding exposure to dust, chemicals, fumes, gases, toxic inhalants, and other substances that can harm your lungs
- Avoiding excessive amounts of calcium-rich foods (such as dairy products, oranges, and canned salmon with bones), vitamin D, and sunlight.
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