What Is Sarcoidosis and How Does It Affect You?

Doctor examining skin rashes

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  • Sarcoidosis occurs when the immune system goes haywire and prompts the body to attack its own tissues and organs
  • Sarcoidosis is defined as a rare disease wherein granulomas, or small patches of red and swollen tissue, appear in certain organs

Sarcoidosis is defined as a rare disease wherein granulomas, or small patches of red and swollen tissue, appear in certain organs. It’s an autoimmune condition that’s similar to rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The body parts usually targeted by this disease include:1,2,3

Lungs

Skin

Lymph nodes

Eyes

Heart

Nervous system

Liver

Spleen

Muscles

Nose

Sinuses


Sarcoidosis has three stages:4

First stage: Inflammation occurs.

Second stage: Granulomas, sarcoidosis’ main symptom, begin to form in the affected area. These are masses or nodules of chronically inflamed tissue.

Granulomas are the body’s attempt to combat or isolate organisms and other foreign particles that the immune system finds difficult to eliminate.

Third stage: During this stage, fibrosis or tissue or organ scarring happens. This could be fatal if extensive scarring appears in a vital organ.

The expected time frame of this disease might be different for some people. According to the Cleveland Clinic, in some patients, the disease shifts from one phase to the next within the affected organ's tissues, while others experience the various phases of tissue change within the same organ at the same time.5

Plus, some may notice that granulomas go away on their own in two to three years. In some cases, the patient may not even know about these or do anything about them. Unfortunately, if the granulomas worsen, there is a possibility of irreversible fibrosis.

What Causes Sarcoidosis in the First Place?

Scientists are still trying to fully determine sarcoidosis’ causes. Initial research showed that environmental or hereditary factors can predispose a person to this disease.6 Furthermore, reports have also highlighted that bacteria, viruses, dust or chemicals can trigger sarcoidosis.7

Sarcoidosis occurs when the immune system goes haywire and prompts the body to attack its own tissues and organs. This is in stark contrast to the usual way the body fights infections, wherein white blood cells are released into the blood to isolate and destroy germs. This is a common response of the body when it interacts with an unrecognizable element in the blood, and it dies down once the infection is cleared.8

If a patient has sarcoidosis, however, the inflammation remains and triggers development of granulomas,9 and a sizeable amount of immune cells begin to collect in affected areas.10

Complications of Sarcoidosis

The general prognosis for sarcoidosis is positive and not usually fatal, since the overall death rate stands at less than 5 percent without treatment.11 Moreover, sarcoidosis may resolve on its own. The severity of the disease really depends on the location and the inflammation in that particular area.12

However, if you notice any of sarcoidosis’ initial symptoms, have yourself checked immediately, as there are long-term problems that can arise because of this disease, namely:13

Permanent scarring in lungs and breathing difficulties among people with untreated pulmonary sarcoidosis

Inflammation in any part of the eye, which could result in blindness

Cataracts and glaucoma (although these are rare)

Kidney failure, since sarcoidosis can affect how the body handles calcium

Abnormal heart rhythms and other heart problems that could lead to death

Problems linked to the central nervous system, especially when granulomas develop in the brain and spinal cord

Facial nerve inflammation that could cause facial paralysis


MORE ABOUT SARCOIDOSIS

Introduction: Sarcoidosis

What Is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis Symptoms

Sarcoidosis Treatment

Sarcoidosis Prevention

Sarcoidosis Diet

Sarcoidosis FAQ

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