What is sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is a rare condition that affects multiple organs in the body but mostly the lungs and the lymph glands. It causes small patches of red and swollen tissues known as granulomas. Many people with sarcoidosis usually find that their symptoms improve without treatment over a few months or years. For those who find their symptoms have become worse are severely affected and have what is referred to as chronic sarcoidosis.

What causes sarcoidosis?

The cause of sarcoidosis is not known and the trigger is uncertain. It may be a type of autoimmune disease associated with an abnormal immune response.

Normally, the body’s immune system releases white blood cells into the blood to isolate and destroy germs where there is an infection. This creates inflammation of the body tissues. The immune system then responds to anything in the blood that it does not recognise and calms down once the infection has been cleared.

In cases of sarcoidosis, the immune system has gone into overdrive and the body attacks its own tissues and organs. This causes the granulomas to develop in the organs. It is not known why the immune system behaves like this. Some environmental factors may trigger the condition.

What are the symptoms of sarcoidosis?

The symptoms can vary, depending on which organs are involved. Patients often complain of a persistent dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. The most typical signs of sarcoidosis include:

  • Tender, red bumps on the skin
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Swollen joints
  • Enlarged lymph glands in the neck, armpits and groin
  • Enlarged lymph glands in the chest and lungs

How is sarcoidosis treated?

The condition tends to go away by itself, usually within a few months or years. Over-the-counter painkillers can help control any flare-ups. A GP can monitor the condition with regular X-rays, breath and blood tests. Steroid tablets can also help relieve symptoms and prevent inflammation and scarring to organs.

What lifestyle changes can help sarcoidosis?

The following measures can help manage the condition:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding exposure to dust, chemicals, fumes and gases
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Drinking plenty of water
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