The facts on how to spot an extremely confusing disease, with signs and symptoms. Get answers to all the questions you wanted to know about sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis is a disease that can affect practically any organ, but is most commonly associated with the lungs. Abnormal collections of inflammatory cells known as granulomas form as nodules in the area that is affected. There is no known case of the disease, but it is thought that an immune reaction or infection may be the trigger that causes inflammatory cells to form, even after the initial infection has been cleared up.
Sarcoidosis usually does not require medical intervention and clears up by itself but some cases can become life-threatening or cause disability, particularly when the granulomas do not disappear and cause inflammation and scarring to the tissues where they had appeared. A number of celebrities have been afflicted with this disease including boxer Evander Holyfield and actor Bernie Mac. Bernie Mac lived with the disease for 25 years before it resulted in his death in 2008.
In most cases, Sarcoidosis will clear up without the need for medication and there will be no symptoms, but in other cases there may be symptoms depending on the area the disease is affecting. The general symptoms that one may experience are:
Most commonly the lungs are prone to be affected by this disease. It is believed this is caused when a foreign substance is inhaled in the lungs causing an immune reaction. The symptoms that are usually experienced are:
Sarcoidosis can also affect the skin with symptoms appearing as rashes or lesions. The area may also develop sores and the skin may be raised and scarred. Quite often the area that is affected will also have patches of no hair. There have also been cases where Sarcoidosis develops in the nervous system and results in seizures and headaches.
The symptoms of sarcoidosis may disappear and reappear after a period of inactivity, making it a difficult disease to diagnose. When the disease goes into remission it may even be misdiagnosed as another illness. The most common way people are diagnosed with sarcoidosis is when they get a chest x-ray done for some other condition and it is discovered that they have swollen lymph nodes.
Sarcoidosis is the most common of scarring lung disorders and affects as many as a million people a year. Because of the complex nature of the disease it is hard to determine exactly how many people are affected by it and how many have not yet diagnosed it.
Although sarcoidosis does not discriminate between genders and races, there are a few demographics that it is more prevalent in. Young black adults are most likely to get the disease, especially women of German, Irish, Scandinavian and Puerto Rican origin. It is unclear why this is so. Also, black women are two times more likely to get the condition than black males even though amongst white men and women the risk is the same.
Sarcoidosis is a disease that mainly affects people between 20 and 40 years of age. This age group makes up 70% of the people affected.
Certain geographic areas are more at risk of getting the disease. For a long period of time it has been considered a common disease in Scandinavian countries, affecting 64 out of 100,000 people.
Sarcoidosis is not the easiest illness to diagnose. Initial diagnosis is usually after assessing the patient’s’ medical history. After that a few routine tests are taken followed by a physical examination and chest x-rays. Through a process of elimination other diseases are removed from the list of possible culprits. Commonly sarcoidosis can be mistaken for tuberculosis, fungal infections, lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever.
There is no cure for sarcoidosis so the symptoms are hard to attach directly to this condition. Once it has been established that a patient has sarcoidosis he/she will undergo treatment to suppress the inflammation that the granulomas cause. The most common medication that is prescribed when one has this disease is Prednisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory.
It has also been seen that different organs react differently to the same medication so it is very necessary to know which area is affected by the disease. Anti-malarial medication may also be used sometimes and has shown positive results in some cases.
There is not always the assurance that the disease will remit and even if symptoms clear up, doctors aren’t always sure that it will stay that way. Again, it largely depends on which area the disease is affecting since patients with the disease in their spleen, bone or affecting their skin tend to have the disease for a longer time. If the condition does not clear up in three years, it is unlikely that it ever will.
The outlook for sarcoidosis is quite positive. Most people live normal and active lives with the disease and even if diagnosed, the condition could possibly clear up within three years with or without treatment. It is very rare for sarcoidosis to be fatal, although it does happen. The overall average for mortality is 5%. When sarcoidosis affects the lungs, it can cause complications such as heart failure and internal bleeding from lung tissue.
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