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Q.What is sarcoidosis? 

A. It is a multi-system, granulomatous disease that can and does attack any organ of the body. It mimics other diseases, often making diagnosis a long and difficult process. Sarcoidosis, often shortened to Sarcoid, can be acute or chronic.. Although sarcoidosis is a multisystem disorder, it affects the lungs 90% of the time. It can go into remission for weeks or months or years. Sarcoidosis is not contagious.

Q.What does the name "sarcoidosis" mean?

A. The name Sarcoid comes from the Greek word sarko meaning "flesh". The "oid" is also from the Greek and means "like". So, sarcoidosis means flesh-like or fleshy, referring to the small skin tumors that can develop. It is pronounced sar coy do'sls

Q.What causes sarcoidosis? 

A. The cause of Sarcoidosis is unknown.  Researchers suspect several possibilities:
- A viral or bacterial infection
- A defect in the immune system
- Exposure to a toxic substance
- Unknown environmental trigger
- An inherited or genetic factor 

Q.Who can develop sarcoidosis? 

A. Sarcoidosis most commonly affects young adults of both sexes, although studies have reported more cases in females. Incidence is highest for individuals younger than 40 and peaks in the age-group from 20 to 29 years; a second peak is observed for women over 50. Sarcoidosis occurs throughout the world in all races with an average incidence of 16.5/100,000 in men and 19/100,000 in women. The disease is most prevalent in Northern European countries, and the highest annual incidence of 60/100,000 is found in Sweden and Iceland. In the United States, sarcoidosis is more common in people of African descent than Caucasians, with annual incidence reported as 35.5 and 10.9/100,000, respectively. Sarcoidosis is less commonly reported in South America, Spain, India, Canada, and Philippines.

Q.What is a granulonoma? 

A. Granuloma is a round or oval nodule that consists of inflammatory cells. Lymphocytes, epithelioid cells and giant cells  are the main constituents of a sarcoid granuloma. Because these nodules are solid and have no holes, they are referred to as 'non-caseating granulomas'. These granulomas ultimately become scar or fibrosis. 

Q.How is sarcoidosis diagnosed? 
A. A physician takes an extensive medical history from the patient, and does a thorough physical examination including blood work, pulmonary function tests (PFT) and x-rays. An Ophthalmologist may do a complete eye examination to rule out any disease process. Other diagnostic tests can include a Gallium Scan, CT scan, MRI and/or removal (biopsy) of a small piece of tissue from a suspected area.  Examination of this specimen under a microscope will identify any granulomas present.

Q.What areas of the body can develop sarcoidosis? 

A. Although the lungs are commonly involved with sarcoidosis in over 90% of patients, the eyes and skin are the second most common organs affected. Any lymph nodes, joints, muscles, bones, heart, liver, kidney, the nervous system, spleen and any other organ can develop granulomas. Today, sophisticated technology is making the diagnosis of Sarcoidosis more quickly and easily. 

Q. Is there a cure for sarcoidosis?

A. There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but the disease may get better on its own over time or with drug therapy. Drug treatments are used to relieve symptoms, reduce the inflammation of the affected tissues, reduce the impact of granuloma development, and may prevent the development of lung fibrosis or other irreversible organ damage.

Q. Is sarcoidosis a type of cancer?

A. Sarcoidosis is not a form of cancer.

Q. Can my family get sarcoidosis from me?

A. Sarcoidosis is not contagious so your friends and family members won’t catch the disease from you.

Q. Is sarcoidosis a genetic disease? Will my children get it?

A. Within some individual families, the presence of sarcoidosis in a first- or second-degree relative has been shown to increase the chance of getting the disease by nearly five-fold. Multiple genes have been identified that affect the chances of getting sarcoidosis, and it is the combination of these genes that come together to influence susceptibility. Some of the genes will be passed to offspring, which likely accounts for a large proportion of the elevated risk in close relatives. Despite this, there is currently no screening test to identify who is at risk, and the likelihood of any given relative getting the disease is still so low that screening for sarcoidosis is not currently recommended.

Q. Will sarcoidosis affect my pregnancy?

A. Sarcoidosis itself should not interfere with your pregnancy or affect your unborn baby. Many women’s symptoms improve while they are pregnant because the body produces a higher level of its own corticosteroids. However, if the disease has caused significant organ damage, especially to the heart or lungs, it may be more difficult to successfully carry the baby to term and could be dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

Q. Is my skin rash contagious?

A. No. The rash may not look pretty, but it cannot be passed to others through touch or other means.

Q. Can sarcoidosis develop into asthma or emphysema?

A. Although sarcoidosis commonly affects the lungs and can cause shortness of breath, wheezing and cough, sarcoidosis does not cause emphysema nor does it develop into asthma.

Q. Do I need to restrict my level of exercise?

A. There’s no need to restrict your activities simply because you have sarcoidosis. If you become out of breath, stop and rest. But there is no reason to stop participation in athletic activities.

Q. Do I need to alter my diet in any way?

A. Not unless the sarcoidosis is causing high blood calcium levels. About one in 10 people with sarcoidosis do have high blood calcium levels. If this is the case for you, reduce your intake of calcium-rich foods (such as dairy, oranges and canned salmon with bones), vitamins containing calcium, vitamin D and avoid excessive sun exposure (such as sunbathing).

Q. Will sarcoidosis affect my sex life?

A. Rarely, sarcoidosis can affect the endocrine glands or the reproductive organs in a way that affects sex life. More often, sexual dysfunction is related to the presence of small fiber neuropathy or other factors like depression.

Q. What are the side effects of treatment with corticosteroids?

A. Common side effects of corticosteroids include excessive weight gain, insomnia, acne, diabetes in susceptible people, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cataracts, osteoporosis, depression and emotional irritability, skin bruising and increased risk of infections.

Q. I was recently diagnosed with sarcoidosis. What’s my outlook?

A. Most people with sarcoidosis live normal lives. About 60 percent of people with sarcoidosis recover on their own without any treatment, 30 percent have persistent disease that may or may not require treatment, and up to 10 percent with progressive long-standing disease have serious damage to organs or tissues that can be fatal. The rate of death from sarcoidosis historically has ranged from 1 percent to 5 percent in various studies, but is likely closer to the low end of that range.

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