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Sarcoidosis

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Sarcoidosis is the result of an immune system malfunction which most often attacks men and women between the ages of 20 and 40. Sarcoidosis can either disappear as mysteriously at it came within two to three years of its initial onset, last a lifetime, or become a serious and fatal condition, although physicians can not determine why it affects some so seriously and goes into remission with others. Starting in the lungs, Sarcoidosis spreads throughout the body, involving any organ in the body but typically concentrating on the liver, eyes, heart, skin, and nervous system.

SARCOIDOSIS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The onset of sarcoidosis can range from gradual and long lasting to a very sudden and very serious but short term illness. Some patients experience severe symptoms while others experience no symptoms or symptoms that are not bothersome enough to consult a physician. Some patients discover the disease after a routine chest x-ray ordered for other purposes. While ranging in severity symptoms may include weight loss, watery eyes, red eyes, fatigue, fever, a general feeling of undetermined illness, small red bumps on the face, arms, and buttocks, and bumps on the skin of the shin accompanied by arthritis in the wrists, ankles, elbows, hands, or feet.
Sarcoidosis
Image: Sarcoidosis

SARCOIDOSIS CAUSES

There is no definite determined cause for sarcoidosis, although the immune system is definitely involved in the development of the disease. Research strongly suggests that a pathogen enters the body through the respiratory system and eventually affects the entire body, although research has not determined the pathogen or whether it simply sends the immune system into overload or remains in the body. There are similarities in the bacterium found in some cases that are found in patients with tuberculosis.

SARCOIDOSIS RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for developing sarcoidosis include race, age, and ethnicity. African Americans are not only more likely to develop sarcoidosis but are also more likely to experience more severe symptoms and have more complications with a higher rate of death. Patients between the ages of 20 and 40 are the most at risk, with very few cases found in patients over 50 or children. People who are of Irish, Scandinavian, or German heritage are also more likely to develop sarcoidosis.

Many patients don’t experience symptoms of great magnitude during the onset of sarcoidosis. In fact, patients often seek medical advice for other ailments and are tested for alternative illnesses before receiving the diagnosis of sarcoidosis. Testing can be extensive and may include tests such as blood tests, lung function tests, tissue samples, bronchoscopy, slit lamp examination, or mediastinoscopy.
Lung disease
Image: Lung Disease

SARCOIDOSIS COMPLICATIONS

There are complications associated with sarcoidosis, ranging in degrees of severity just like the disease itself. Complications may include scarring of the lungs, skin or eye diseases, nervous system complications, heart problems, liver disease, and fertility problems or infertility. Those who experience complications typically are those who are distressed more severely by the disease.

SARCOIDOSIS TREATMENT

Treatment is not always necessary. If sarcoidosis is detected in the early stages, most physicians do not treat the disease as it is known to simply disappear. However, if the disease progresses beyond the lungs, treatment becomes necessary. Most physicians monitor patient progress through the use of chest x-rays and expect symptoms to clear anywhere from 3 to 12 months after diagnosis. If there is no progress, treatment may begin. However, treatment can cause problems as well, as the only effective treatment at the time of this writing is the use of powerful anti-inflammatory medications. Long term use of these medications might include cataracts, diabetes, a high susceptibility to infection, weight gain, redistribution of body fat, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis or other bone disease which cause brittle bones and the loss of teeth. Prednisone is currently the most used medication for the treatment of sarcoidosis and can cause aggression and mood changes over a period of just a few weeks or months.

Self care becomes very important when diagnosed with sarcoidosis, as the patient who monitors himself well can often help prevent deterioration of health. Protecting the lings is vital and patients who smoke or work with harsh chemicals are likely to have ill effects. Patients need to remain under the care of the physician even if they are not having great difficulty to maintain monitoring. A healthy diet and exercise can go a long way in improving overall health and fighting off ill effects of treatment.
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