Growth and development of inflammatory cells in small clusters in different areas of the body (a multisystem granulomatous inflammatory disease) is sarcoidosis. In simple terms sarcoidosis can be defined as a specific type of body tissues inflammation. This disease can affect any organ of the body but usually affects the lungs, lymph nodes and the skin more often.
Eyes and the liver can also get affected by this disease. Though rare, the brain and the heart can also get affected thus leading to severe complications. Sarcoidosis is also known as sarcoid or Besnier-Boeck disease.
Sarcoidosis can appear all of a sudden and vanish just like that. There are chances that it may develop
gradually and produce symptoms continually for a lifetime. Granulomas forming in various organs can affect the functioning of the organ. Symptoms of sarcoidosis depend upon the organ affected. Many people affected by sarcoidosis have no symptoms or have minimal symptoms. The exact cause of the disease has not yet been established.
Microscopic lumps of a particular form of inflammation (granulomas) appear in the affected tissues. In most cases, these granulomas tend to clear up with or without treatment. In case the granulomas do not heal and disappear, the tissues tend to remain inflamed and turn out to be scarred (fibrotic). Sarcoidosis can affect young women more than it does men and is no longer a considered a rare disease. Surprising though, black women are more at risk when compared to black men. This disease is likely to occur in men and women aged between 20 and 40.
The effects of sarcoidosis vary from person to person depending on the organ affected. Most of the people
recover from the disease without any continuing problems. But a few may suffer from remission (the disease will not be active but can return) within 3 years of diagnosis. Yet a few may have remission within 10 years of diagnosis. Sarcoidosis can cause organ damage in a few people; damage may happen over many years and can involve more than one organ. Sarcoidosis is hardly fatal. If at all death occurs it could be as a result of complications with the lungs, heart, or brain.
Symptoms vary from person to person depending on the affected part. However the most common symptoms
- General feeling of sickness
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Symptoms for sarcoidosis are specific to the organ or tissue affected. Lung sarcoidosis results in shortness of breath and unrelenting dry cough. A mass in the neck might be noticed in those suffering form sarcoidosis of the glands,
- Studying medical history of patient
- Physical/clinical examination
- Chest x-ray
- Medical imaging
- Laboratory tests (blood)
- Lung function test - to check air inflow into and out of the lungs
- Bronchoscopy - biopsy of the air passage tissue
Most patients with sarcoidosis require no treatment. The condition usually clears on its own. Physicians
decide on the treatment on case to case basis after considering the affected gland/area and the severity of the condition. However it is advisable to follow a treatment routine as advised by the physician so as to prevent risks. Common treatment includes:
- Immunomodulators - to stimulate the immune system
- Cytotoxic agents
- Corticosteroids to contain inflammation
People suffering from sarcoidosis should meet their physician on a regular basis and take regular follow-up checkups so as to avoid any future complications.
Positive attitude, regular intake of medicines and right lifestyle helps in tackling sarcoidosis with ease. The cause for sarcoidosis is yet to be identified therefore prognosis of the condition is not an easy task. Heath care providers request patients to maintain a positive attitude and consume medications as prescribed.
Scientists are working on this condition to learn more about it so as to develop better diagnosis techniques and treatments. Preventive measures include lifestyle changes as listed below:
- Consume healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Stay active but do not over-exert yourself to exhaustion
- Avoid sun exposure as much as you can
- Avoid dust and chemical agents that can irritate your lungs
Doctors express that sarcoidosis is not a crippling condition and does settle down within 24 to 36 months. Even if it takes longer, patients need not panic and can carry on with their lives normally.
Sarcoidosis affects the heart in 5 to 25% of sarcoidosis cases. Sarcoidosis can affect any part of the heart
ranging from the heart muscle, valves and the layers of tissue that cover the heart to the heart's electrical signaling system. Most people suffering from this condition experience no symptoms. This is why screening is a very important aspect in cardiac sarcoidosis. Cardiac sarcoidosis includes a range of symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- Tight chest
- Irregular heartbeat that mimics palpitations and/or skipped heart beats
- Leg swelling occurs in advanced stages of cardiac sarcoidosis
- Chest pain (very rare)
The above mentioned symptoms can also be indicative of various other conditions. Therefore physicians conduct a series of tests to confirm sarcoidosis and rule out other disease conditions.
Common diagnostic tests include:
- Cardiac biopsy (rare)
- Holter monitoring
- Cardiac MRI
- Chest x-ray
The granular cells resemble clusters of salt grains or sand and slowly affect the functioning of the organ. About one third of the patients suffering from cardiac sarcoidosis have noticeable abnormalities in an echocardiogram.
Sarcoidosis has varying effects on the heart, ranging from mild to severe. Patients can suffer valve malfunctions or blood flow blockages. In some cases, abnormal heart rhythm is noticed.