Sarcoidosis is a condition where small bead-like patches of inflamed cells -- called granulomas -- show up in the body, usually in the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. Sarcoidosis can also affect other parts of the body, including the muscles, eyes, and skin.
Many people with sarcoidosis may have no symptoms at all. But in others, the condition can cause long-term organ damage. An example is the formation of fiber-like scar tissue in the lung, which can cause breathing problems. Sarcoidosis may develop over time and cause symptoms that last for years, or it may show up and go away quickly.
People who have a variation of sarcoidosis, called Lofgren's syndrome, may have symptoms that include swollen lymph nodes, fever, painful, reddened nodules, and joint pain. Lofgren's syndrome generally tends to clear up on its own within 1 - 2 years.
Sarcoidosis affects more African-Americans than Caucasians in the United States. About 36 in 100,000 African-Americans, while 11 in 100,000 Caucasians have the condition.
Many people with sarcoidosis have no symptoms at all.
Some people with pulmonary (lung) sarcoidosis may have the following signs and symptoms:
When sarcoidosis affects areas of the body other than the lungs, symptoms can include:
Researchers don't know exactly what causes sarcoidosis. Some think it's due to an overactive immune system that responds too strongly to an invading organism. Other researchers have proposed that sarcoidosis may be inherited, caused by an infection, or caused by allergens that are breathed in or toxins found in the environment.
Anyone can develop sarcoidosis, although it's more common among the following:
Sarcoidosis can be hard to diagnose. You may have to see several different doctors, including a pulmonologist (lung specialist). To begin, your doctor will rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The following tests may help diagnose the condition:
About half of all people with sarcoidosis get better without needing treatment. For others, medications such as corticosteroids may help reduce swelling, rashes, pain, fever, and lung problems. Some lifestyle changes may help control complications, such as kidney stones or other damage. While complementary therapies for sarcoidosis have not been well studied, they may help you feel better as part of an overall treatment plan.
If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can ease lung symptoms.
Sarcoidosis can be a long-lasting disease, so it's important to eat a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Exercise regularly. Be sure to ask your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if sarcoidosis leaves you short of breath.
Corticosteroids such as prednisone are considered the first-line treatment for lowering inflammation associated with sarcoidosis. Oral corticosteroids can have some serious side effects if taken in high doses for long periods. Side effects may include high blood pressure, diabetes, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, or osteoporosis. Your doctor will likely suggest regular check-ups and tests.
Other medications sometimes used for sarcoidosis include those that suppress the immune system, such as methotrexate, azathioprine (Imuran), and infliximab (Remicade). However, there are no long-term studies on whether these medication are effective for treating sarcoidosis.
Other medications that may be used include:
Antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine -- used when the skin is affected. It may be toxic to the eyes.
Thalidomide -- being studied for sarcoidosis; used to improve lung function and treat skin problems.
Surgery, such as a lung or heart transplant, is only necessary in very severe cases.
Although there is no evidence that any particular herb or supplement helps treat sarcoidosis, a comprehensive treatment plan may include complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of doctors about the best ways to bring these therapies into your overall treatment plan. Always tell your doctor about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using, as some supplements may interfere with conventional treatments.
These nutritional tips will help your overall health:
The following supplements may also help overall health:
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to get your problem diagnosed before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, you should make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Studies haven' t found any herbs that specifically treat sarcoidosis. However, the following herbs may help overall health. Talk to your doctor before taking any herb or supplement if you have sarcoidosis.
A few case reports suggest that homeopathic remedies may improve the general well-being of individuals with sarcoidosis. An experienced homeopath can prescribe a regimen for treating sarcoidosis that is designed specifically for each individual. The primary remedies used by individuals who reported improvements in their symptoms include:
Other homeopathic remedies that have been used clinically for the condition are as follows:
Women with sarcoidosis can still get pregnant. But if you are thinking about having a baby, talk to your doctor. Some of the medications used to treat sarcoidosis, such as methotrexate, can be harmful to the baby. Up to 65% of women may see their symptoms improve during pregnancy, while 5% may find symptoms get worse. Some women may have a flare of symptoms after giving birth. Pregnant women with sarcoidosis should avoid being exposed to x-rays.
Complications from sarcoidosis usually happen in only the most serious cases, and can include heart, kidney, and lung damage. Long-term use of corticosteroids may cause ulcers, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and infections, such as tuberculosis.
The prognosis for most people with sarcoidosis is good. Only 15% of those with sarcoidosis have symptoms that get worse. About 5% develop severe lung problems, which increases the risk of death. Almost half of all people with sarcoidosis get better without any therapy. Treatments used today, such as corticosteroids, often help ease the inflammation associated with the condition.
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