Key Points About Sarcoidosis
- Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that commonly affects the lungs and lymph nodes.
- The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown but is thought to be associated with the body’s immune response to substances such as viruses, bacteria, or chemicals.
- Sarcoidosis is more common in women, those with a family history of the condition, and African American people.
- Symptoms of sarcoidosis in the lungs include wheezing, shortness of breath, dry cough that will not go away, or chest pain.
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory lung condition where batches of cells form in the organs. It may be triggered as your body responds to substances such as viruses, bacteria, or chemicals.
Sarcoidosis may form in the lymph nodes, lungs, eyes, skin, liver, heart, spleen, or brain. When sarcoidosis occurs in the lungs, it is called pulmonary sarcoidosis.
There is not a cure for sarcoidosis, but most patients can experience symptom relief with treatment. In some patients, sarcoidosis can become chronic and cause organ damage over time.
While the exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, gender, race, and genetics increase your risk of developing sarcoidosis. It occurs when your immune system is triggered by substances such as bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals. Once triggered, your body’s immune cells collect in a pattern and build up in the lung.
Sarcoidosis risk factors
Risk factors associated with sarcoidosis include:
- Gender. Sarcoidosis is more common in women than in men.
- Family history. If you have a family history of sarcoidosis, you are more likely to develop sarcoidosis.
- Ethnicity. African Americans are more likely to develop sarcoidosis.
- Age. Symptoms are most common in people ages 20 to 40.
General symptoms associated with sarcoidosis include:
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Joint pain.
- Dryness in your mouth.
- Swelling in the abdomen.
While sarcoidosis can affect any organ, it is most common in the lungs. Symptoms of sarcoidosis in the lungs include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Dry cough.
- Chest pain in your breastbone.
While most patients diagnosed with sarcoidosis do not experience any complications, the disease can become a long-term condition. Complications associated with sarcoidosis include:
- Lung infection.
- Cataracts which can lead to blindness.
- Kidney failure.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Facial paralysis.
- Heart or lung damage.
Contact your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties.
- Heart palpitations.
- Loss of vision.
- Pain in your eyes.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Numbness in your face.
Sarcoidosis is typically diagnosed when all other pulmonary conditions have been ruled out. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history, perform a physical exam, and order diagnostic testing such as:
- Chest X-ray.
- CT scan.
- Pulmonary function testing.
- Blood tests.
- Bronchoalveolar lavage.
- Lung biopsy.
Your doctor will develop a treatment plan for your case. Some patients will not require any treatment, while others may need a combination of treatments.
The goal of treatment is to control symptoms by suppressing the immune system and improve lung function.
Treatments may include:
- Medications. Oral or inhaled steroids, such as prednisone or methotrexate, may help reduce inflammation.
- Physical therapy (PT). Physical therapy can help you increase strength and reduce fatigue.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehab can help decrease respiratory symptoms.
- Cardiac defibrillator or pacemakers. These devices can help with irregular heartbeats.
- Oxygen therapy. Supplemental oxygen can help you breathe easier.
- Lung transplant. Lung transplant is the last resort option if all other treatments have failed.
Your doctor may recommend a combination of the treatments to treat your case effectively.
When to Seek Care
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have any pulmonary sarcoidosis symptoms. If left untreated, your condition can worsen, leading to severe complications such as heart or lung damage.
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