What is Sarcoidosis?
Answer: Sarcoidosis normally involves inflammation of the lungs but it can affect any organ of the body. The eyes, lymph nodes and skin are often affected too. The body’s immune system normally protects the body against foreign and harmful substances, like viruses, bacteria and chemicals. Sarcoidosis is thought to occur as a result of an abnormal immune response, where the body believes itself to be under attack and this triggers an immune reaction. The excess build up of white cells leads to the formation of granulomas, they grow to form lumps on the affected organ and these lumps can impair the normal function of that organ.
Who can get Sarcoidosis?
Answer: Anyone can get Sarcoidosis. It affects 1-2 in every 10,000 people world wide. However, Ireland has one of the highest incidences of Sarcoidosis in the world. It affects 1000’s of Irish people. It is commonly diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 20 to 40 years old. It can also affect older and younger people too. It affects both sexes, but it is more common in woman. Sarcoidosis affects all races but is more prevalent in those of African American, Irish, German, Scandinavian and Puerto Rican descent.
What are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?
Answer: The symptoms of Sarcoidosis can be variable. The disease can occur suddenly (acute sarcoidosis) or slowly over a number of years (chronic sarcoidosis).
Symptoms will depend on which organs are affected. Most commonly, people are affected with tiredness, joint and muscle pains, red lumps on the skin of the legs and enlarged lymph glands.
Other symptoms include, dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, night sweats, red eyes with itching or blurring, loss of appetite or weight.
For the majority of patients, the symptoms diminish with time, and resolve completely over a two to three year period. In a small group of patients symptoms can be more significant and persistent. It may take 3 to 4 years before the symptoms disappear. Occasionally, more chronic cases can develop and in these cases Sarcoidosis can affect the lungs and other organs.
What is the treatment of Sarcoidosis?
Answer: Treatment will vary depending on how severe the symptoms are. The majority of patients require no treatment and rest is generally advised. Others may only require aspirin or anti-inflammatories for aches and pains or eye drops for eye symptoms.
Patients who have significant symptoms are normally treated with steroids which are very effective. They reduce the number of granulomas formed and improve organ function. These are very powerful drugs and can lead to side effects which are normally monitored and managed by your doctor. Do not stop taking steroids suddenly without consulting your doctor as this can result in flare- ups of the disease and other potential problems.
Most people with sarcoidosis will lead a normal and healthy lifestyle but it is vital that they are monitored regularly by medical specialist for any changes in their condition.
I am worried about my son, he has Sarcoidosis and the doctor has him on treatment. He is very weak and there are days when he cannot get out of bed. He is eating very little, what can I do, please help?
Answer: He will need to be reviewed immediately by either his GP or consultant. They need to know his current symptoms. He needs to drink plenty of fluids so that he does not become dehydrated. Also ensure that you keep a diary of how he is each day and this will help when speaking with the doctor.
Are there any consultants in Ireland specialising in the treatment of Sarcoidosis?
I am on steroids and I am feeling depressed. Is this usual and could it be due to the steroids?
Answer: It would be advisable for you to see your GP, especially if you were not depressed prior to commencing the steroids. Steroids are very powerful drugs that can lead to side effects and they need to be monitored and managed by your doctor.
My mother had Sarcoidosis years ago and now I have been diagnosed with it, does it run in the families and will I get better like her?
Answer: Current research is showing that there is a genetic link. This research is also looking at environmental factors which may trigger Sarcoidosis. Most people get better without any treatment.
Can Sarcoidosis come back? I had it many years ago and now have some of the symptoms again?
Answer: Sarcoidosis can come back and you should go and see your GP.
Where are the sarcoidosis support group meetings in Ireland?
Can anyone come to a Sarcoidosis meeting?
Answer: Everyone is welcome at all our meetings and events. All meetings are free and there is ocassionally a guest speaker. Previous guest speakers have included: Respiratory Consultant, Pharmacist, Dietician, Respiratory Nurse Specialist, Social Welfare Consultant.