What is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is a noninfectious, inflammatory disease. Although the exact cause is unknown, sarcoidosis is thought to be due to an exaggerated immune response to an unknown trigger or substance the patient encounters.
People with sarcoidosis develop granulomas; small, abnormal clumps of inflammatory cells that cluster together. Although granulomas are most commonly found in the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, and skin, they can form in almost any organ in the body. If too many granulomas form in an organ, they can interfere with how that organ functions.
Sarcoidosis is rare, affecting approximately .01% of the population. In the United States, adults between 20 and 40 years old have the highest incidence of sarcoidosis. Women are affected more often than men and this disease is more commonly seen in individuals of African American or European descent.
Sarcoidosis causes different symptoms depending on which body parts it affects. The lungs are involved in 90% of patients who have sarcoidosis. Symptoms of sarcoidosis in the lungs can include cough, trouble breathing, chest pains, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Many people with sarcoidosis feel well and don’t have any symptoms at all, making it a difficult disease to detect.
There is no single test to tell if you have sarcoidosis. Medical professionals look at a patient’s history and physical exam findings in combination with imaging studies and tissue samples to determine if a person has sarcoidosis.
Since the cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, there is no cure. Patients with mild cases of this disease do not require any treatment. Frequently, about 50% of the time, people with sarcoidosis experience a spontaneous remission of their symptoms and disease. Patients with more severe cases of sarcoidosis are treated with steroids to relieve symptoms and limit tissue damage. Steroid therapy reduces the body’s immune responses and shrinks the granulomas caused by sarcoidosis.
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