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Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that results from inflammation. Currently, the cause is unknown and usually develops between 20 and 50 years of age. Almost ninety percent of the cases of sarcoidosis are found in the lungs, but it can occur in almost any organ. It causes small lumps, or granulomas, which generally heal and disappear on their own. However, for those granulomas that do not heal, the tissue can remain inflamed and become scarred, or fibrotic.
Pulmonary sarcoidosis can develop into pulmonary fibrosis, which distorts the structure of the lungs and can interfere with breathing. Bronchiectasis, a lung disease in which pockets form in the air tubes of the lung and become sites for infection, can also occur.
Most sarcoidosis patients do not exhibit symptoms and probably are unaware they have the disease. Pulmonary sarcoidosis can cause loss of lung volume (the amount of air the lungs can hold) and abnormal lung stiffness.
The following are the most common symptoms for sarcoidosis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- shortness of breath
- cough that will not go away
- skin rashes on face, arms, or shins
- inflammation of the eyes
- weight loss
- night sweats
- pain in the chest, joints, and bones
The symptoms of sarcoidosis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Sarcoidosis occurs in all races and both genders, but the most susceptible populations seem to be of African-American, Scandinavian, Asian, German, Irish, or Puerto Rican origin.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures may include:
- chest x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- pulmonary function tests - diagnostic tests that help to measure the lungs' ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide appropriately. The tests are usually performed with special machines into which the person must breathe.
- blood tests - to analyze the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.
- bronchoalveolar lavage - a procedure in which a sterile saline solution is put into the lungs through a bronchoscope (a flexible tube for examining the bronchi) and then suctioned out. The bronchoalveolar lavage may be performed to diagnose lung conditions and infections.
Sarcoidosis is usually diagnosed by elimination. That is, other lung disorders that have similar symptoms are progressively eliminated, leading to a diagnosis of sarcoidosis.
Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Treatment may include the use of corticosteroids.