Sarcoidosis is a disease of unknown cause that affects multiple systems in the body. Small tumors, called granulomas, form in various organs of the body. Some think it results from infection, while others think it is an abnormal response of the immune system. Other suggested causes include heredity, environment, and lifestyle.
Although the granulomas can appear in any organ of the body, they most often start in the lungs or lymph nodes. They can suddenly appear and disappear, or they can develop gradually. The symptoms that result are mainly due to the number and size of the granulomas, no matter where they appear.
Sarcoidosis occurs most commonly in persons 20 to 40 years of age. However, it can occur in children and older adults. Although sarcoidosis occurs in all races and both sexes, the risk is much greater in young African-American adults, especially women. Puerto Ricans and northern Europeans are also at higher risk. Because the symptoms are vague, they may be mistaken as due to other diseases. Therefore, the incidence of sarcoidosis is unknown.
Symptons of Sarcoidosis
Many people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms, and the diagnosis is first made on a chest x-ray taken for some other reason. Most people develop mild symptoms and need no treatment. The symptoms vary depending on the location and extent of the disease. Serious symptoms are rare.
Usual symptoms of sarcoidosis are:
- shortness of breath
- persistent coughing
- sudden skin rashes
- red bumps on face, arms, etc.
- inflammation of eyes
More general symptoms are: – weight loss – fatigue (unusual tiredness) – night sweats – fever
About 20-30 % of people with sarcoidosis are left with some permanent lung damage.
A lung (or pulmonary) specialist is generally the best kind of doctor for managing sarcoidosis.
If there are symptoms of sarcoidosis, the affected person should see his or her doctor on a regular basis so that the disease can be closely watched. In this way, treatment can be started early, if necessary. Even if there are no symptoms, it’s important for those with sarcoidosis to have an annual check-up including an eye examination. Steroids are the primary treatment for sarcoidosis.
How People with Sarcoidosis Can Help Themselves
Avoid exposure to substances such as dust and chemicals that can harm the lungs
Join a “Sarcoidosis Support Group”
To locate a local Support Group, call the American Lung Association. You may find them in our Relevant Resources Table.