What is sarcoidosis? — Sarcoidosis is a disorder that causes clusters of abnormal tissue to form in the body. These clusters are called “granulomas.” If many granulomas form in an organ, they can keep the organ from working normally. For example, granulomas can form in the lungs and cause breathing problems.
Sarcoidosis can affect many different organs. Often it affects the lungs, but it can also affect the skin, eyes, nose, and lots of other body parts.
What are the symptoms of sarcoidosis? — Sarcoidosis causes different symptoms depending on which body part it affects. Often the symptoms are mild and go away on their own.
When it affects the lungs, sarcoidosis can cause:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Tiredness or weakness
- Weight loss
When it affects the skin, sarcoidosis can cause a mild rash or painful bumps called Erythema Nodosum.
Sometimes the rash and bumps go away completely. Other times, they leave a scar.
Sometimes, sarcoidosis causes no symptoms even though it is damaging certain organs. For this reason, people with sarcoidosis might need to have tests to check for organ damage.
How do I know if I have sarcoidosis? — There is no single “test” that can tell if you have sarcoidosis. To diagnose it, doctors and nurses look at:
- Your symptoms and your physical exam
- X-rays (or special X-rays called CT scans)
- Lab work on tissue taken from your body (called a biopsy)
- Tests that can rule out other causes of your condition
How is sarcoidosis treated? — Doctors and nurses do not know what causes sarcoidosis, so they do not have a treatment to cure it. Luckily, they do have ways to treat its symptoms. Even so, if your symptoms are mild, you might not need treatment.
Medicines called steroids can relieve the symptoms of sarcoidosis and prevent some of the damage it can cause. These steroid medicines are not the kind that athletes take to build up muscle. These steroids reduce swelling and shrink the granulomas caused by sarcoidosis. Sometimes, people can use skin creams, eye drops, and inhalers that have steroids in them. Other times, if their symptoms are severe, they take steroid pills.
Even though steroid pills can help with the problems caused by sarcoidosis, they can also cause problems of their own. For instance, steroids can cause weight gain and mood swings, and make diabetes worse. For this reason, doctors and nurses try to take people off steroids as soon as possible.
Medicines besides steroids can also help with sarcoidosis. Doctors and nurses usually use these medicines only in people who cannot take steroids or who do not get better with steroids.
How will sarcoidosis affect my life? — Sarcoidosis usually goes away on its own or does not get worse. Sometimes it does get worse and can spread to many organs. Even so, people do not usually die from sarcoidosis.