Do you feel fatigue often or nurse a persistent dry cough? Do you have unexplained reddish purple bumps around your ankles and shins? One possibility could be Sarcoidosis which is the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells (granulomas) in different parts of the body especially the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes and skin.
Medical experts have not found an exact cause of sarcoidosis. Some people develop a genetic predisposition to the disease triggered by bacteria, viruses, dust, chemicals or any unknown substance resulting in an overreaction from the body’s immune system causing a pattern of inflammation called granulomas whose build-up in an organ can impair the functioning of that organ.
Signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which organs are affected. Sarcoidosis sometimes develops gradually and produces symptoms that last for years. At other times, symptoms appear suddenly and then disappear just as quickly. Many people with sarcoidosis display no symptoms, so the disease may be discovered and stumbled upon while undergoing a chest X-ray for another reason. It usually begins with fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, unexplained weight loss; lung problems like persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain; skin problems like reddish-purple bumps which are very tender and sore to the touch, disfiguring sores and lesions on the nose, cheeks and ears, patches of skin that are darker or lighter in shade and growths under the skin nodules especially around scars and tattoos; and eye symptoms like blurred vision, eye pain, severe redness and too much sensitivity to light.
Sarcoidisis is common in the age between 20 and 40 especially in women. Factors that increase one’s risk to sarcoidosis are being Afro-American, or a family incidence of the disease. Complications can be lasting lung problems making breathing difficult, blindness, rare cases of cataracts and glaucoma, kidney failure, abnormal heart rhythms and inflammation in the facial nerves that can cause facial palsy.
It is very difficult to diagnose for a lot of reasons – as there are no early signs, and the disease mimics other disorders. The doctor will ask for a physical examination including a close investigation of any skin lesions, study of the heart, lungs and lymph nodes for any inflammation, a chest X-ray, a CT, PET or MRI scan, blood tests to check kidney and liver functionality, pulmonary function tests, eye check and biopsies of skin, lungs and lymph nodes if required.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for sarcoidosis. Most people respond quite well and manage with little or only modest treatment. In more than half the cases, sarcoidosis goes away on its own. One may not even require treatment if there are no significant signs and symptoms of the condition, but regular monitoring with chest X-rays, skin and eye examination is a must .In some cases, sarcoidosis may last for years and may cause organ damage.
The first line of treatment for sarcoidosis is corticosteroids to be applied directly on the affected area, medications to suppress the immune system, hydroxychloroquine to treat skin problems and elevated calcium-levels and Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors to treat any inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis . Surgery in the form of organ transplant is the last resort if the disease has severely damaged the lungs, the heart or the liver.