Sarcoidosis causes inflammation in body
Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammation of the body's tissues. Typically, inflammation is a basic response of the body to injury and usually causes reddened skin, warmth, swelling and pain.
However, inflammation caused by sarcoidosis produces small lumps, also called nodules, in the tissues.
Inflammation of sarcoidosis can occur in almost any organ and always affects more than one. An organ is affected when nodules cause an abnormality that can be found during diagnosis or when a patient develops a complaint.
Most often, the inflammation starts in either the lungs or lymph nodes. Sarcoidosis is usually a mild condition and does not result in lasting harm to tissues.
Occasionally, the inflammation occurs suddenly and symptoms appear quickly, but usually sarcoidosis develops gradually and only later produces symptoms. In most patients, the inflammation that causes the nodules gets better without treatment and the lumps go away.
In other cases, the lumps do not heal or disappear and the tissues remain inflamed. If untreated, these tissues become scarred and is then referred to as "fibrotic." Even those who need treatment can usually lead a normal lifestyle.
The cause of sarcoidosis is not yet known. It affects men and women of all ages and races. However, it occurs most often in adults between the ages of 20 and 40. In the United States, the disease occurs slightly more often and more severely among African Americans than whites.
While there may be en- vironmental factors that in- crease a person's risk for developing sarcoidosis, more research is needed.
Most people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms. Depending on which organs the disease affects, general symptoms caused by the disease can include weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever and an overall feeling of ill health.
Most often, the disease will affect the lungs. The most common symptoms in this case are a cough that does not go away, shortness of breath, particularly with exertion, and irregular heartbeat (palpitations.)
Someone who is thought to have the disease should see a doctor who specializes in sarcoidosis, usually a lung physician (pulmonologist).
Treatment of sarcoidosis depends on a person's symptoms. Up to 60 percent of those with sarcoidosis receive no therapy. But for some patients, intense treatment is required, especially if there is critical organ involvement such as the lungs, eyes, heart or central nervous system.
The purpose of treatment is to control symptoms or to improve the function of the organs affected by the disease. Medication therapy is used to reduce the size of the nodules.
Most of the medications prescribed for sarcoidosis are strong and may cause unpleasant side effects. Living with the symptoms must be weighed against the side effects produced by the medications prescribed.
Those with sarcoidosis need to have their condition monitored by their physician during and after treatment. Even without a treatment regiment, patients with sarcoidosis should receive regular check ups since symptoms may develop later.
Dr. Sridhar Rajamani is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and critical care medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is in private practice at the Raj Lung Clinic in Yuma, specializing in pulmonary disease and critical-care medicine. Also, he serves as medical director for Respiratory and Critical Care Services at Yuma Regional Medical Center.