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Sarcoidosis

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Definition

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that may affect many different parts of the body. Small round spots, called granulomas, form in various organs. The spots slow down normal functioning of those organs.

Causes

The cause of sarcoidosis is not known. It seems to be related to malfunctioning of the immune system. The disease may be triggered by an infection or exposure to a toxin in the environment.

Some people may be more susceptible to sarcoidosis due to genetic or environmental factors.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of sarcoidosis include:

  • Age: 20 to 40
  • Sex: female
  • Ethnic descent: African-American, Northern European, Scandinavian, and Irish

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and can occur in different parts of the body, depending on where the granulomas form. Most symptoms develop in the lungs, skin, eyes, and liver. Multiple body systems may be affected. Symptoms may come and go. This disease is often acute, but in some patients it is chronic.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Pain or irritation of eyes
  • Fatigue, especially with exertion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Blurred vision or blindness
  • Poor coordination
  • Trouble walking
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints
  • Facial paralysis known as Bell's Palsy
Bell's Palsy
Facial droop and nerves
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An eye exam may also be done. There is no specific lab test that confirms a diagnosis of sarcoidosis. Instead, the diagnosis is made based on symptoms and medical tests that are usually positive in patients with this condition.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Biopsy

Your bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

Your heart activity may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) .

Your lung function may be tested. This can be done with pulmonary function tests (PFTs) .

Treatment

Treatment aims to ease symptoms and minimize permanent problems. Treatment may include:

Monitoring

You need regular medical and eye exams to monitor for symptoms and complications of sarcoidosis.

Medication

Drugs that may be prescribed include the following:

  • Prednisone to decrease inflammation
  • Methotrexate or azathioprine may be used for patients who do not respond to steroids
  • Hydroxychloroquine to treat skin problems
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents to treat musculoskeletal symptoms
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation programs to improve lung function
  • Topical steroids to treat rashes
  • Eye drops to treat mild eye problems

Self-care

To help minimize your symptoms, follow these guidelines:

  • If you smoke, quit .
  • Avoid exposure to dust and chemicals.
  • Notify your doctor at right away if any symptoms develop or worsen.

Prevention

Although doctors do not know the exact cause of sarcoidosis, they believe infections or exposure to chemicals may bring on the disease. Steps for prevention may include:

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals and toxins.
  • To prevent infection, wash your hands before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom.

Revision Information

  • American Lung Association

    http://www.lungusa.org

  • Arthritis Foundation

    http://www.arthritis.org

  • The Arthritis Society

    http://www.arthritis.ca

  • The Canadian Lung Association

    http://www.lung.ca

  • Sarcoidosis. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sarcoidosis/ . Accessed August 15, 2013.

  • Sarcoidosis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated July 25, 2013. Accessed August 15, 2013.

  • Sarcoidosis in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated January 28, 2011. Accessed August 15, 2013.

  • What is sarcoidosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sarc/ . Updated June 14, 2013. Accessed August 15, 2013.