Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can affect various organs, though the lungs and lymph nodes are most common. The direct cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. When an organ is inflamed, the tissue may develop lumps or nodules called granulomas. Once granulomas -- clusters of immune system cells -- form, they can affect the function of the organ and alter its original structure. Symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which organ is affected, and the condition is often misdiagnosed.
Swollen and enlarged lymph nodes are an indication that the immune system is at work fighting off infection. In the case of sarcoidosis, the nodes themselves may be directly affected. Lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin enlarge when inflamed; they become tender and the skin over them may become red. Other lymph nodes affected by sarcoidosis include those in the chest and around the lungs. Inflammation of these tissues can cause pain and coughing.
Sarcoidosis of the skin develops in 25% of cases and the skin lesions are often present at the time of diagnosis. Sarcoidosis can cause rash-like red bumps that are warm to the touch. These tender areas usually occur on the shins and ankles and can become quite uncomfortable. The shape and size of the bumps can vary widely and may feel similar to an allergic reaction. Sarcoidosis can also cause sections of skin to become lighter or darker than the individual's natural skin tone.
A more severe form of sarcoidosis on the skin can result in large sores or lesions, primarily on the nose, cheeks, and ears. The growths may be rough and dark in color. If an individual has scar tissue, sarcoidosis is likely to form underneath the scar and may appear to be pushing up from below the healed abrasion. Sometimes, sarcoidosis affects tattooed areas, as well. These skin problems are treatable, but if not addressed promptly can lead to more scar tissue.
Joint pain is common with cases of sarcoidosis. As the membranes that surround the joint become inflamed and irritated, the person will be more likely to experience more pain in the joint, especially in the ankles. Some people experience gradual, chronic pain, while others may feel acute pain that comes on suddenly and is sporadic. This symptom makes moving the joints difficult and painful. They may become swollen and warm to the touch and can feel similar to arthritis. Any inflammation in the joints should be investigated by a doctor.
Fatigue and fever often present together in cases of disease, infection, and inflammation. Individuals may feel consistently tired and lethargic, requiring more sleep than usual. Fever and chills may accompany this fatigue and cause aching muscles. If the fever does not pass after 48 hours, it is important to visit a doctor.
When sarcoidosis forms in or behind the eye, different symptoms may develop. Many people develop general eye pain and become sensitive to bright light. An affected individual's eyes may become red and irritated. Blurred vision can also develop. When sarcoidosis around the eye is not treated, it can result in blindness.
Shortness of breath or dyspnea is generally a cause for concern because this symptom suggests an underlying heart or lung condition. Combined with chest pain, shortness of breath can indicate cardiac sarcoidosis, where granulomas develop in the heart muscle and the valves, causing irregular heartbeats or interfering with the heart's electrical system. People experiencing these symptoms may also feel dizzy or lose consciousness. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Skipped or abnormal heartbeats are arrhythmias and can occur in cases of cardiac sarcoidosis when the cell clusters surround the heart itself, causing more inflammation. As a result, the heart cannot work to full capacity. Pericarditis or heart failure can develop when cardiac sarcoidosis is left untreated. Any heart abnormalities should be investigated by a doctor.
Many conditions can lead to sudden and unexpected weight loss. When an individual begins losing weight without making an effort to do so through diet or exercise, this can have significant impacts on nutrition, muscle wellness, and even bone health. The abnormal masses caused by sarcoidosis, and the chronic inflammation associated with this condition, are possible causes of sudden weight loss.
Sarcoidosis around the liver can cause engorgement of the organ, which presents as visible bloating and swelling in the abdomen and abnormal liver tests. The condition can also cause kidney stones when the kidney can no longer function properly due to these spreading of granulomas in the kidneys. Kidney stones themselves can cause pain but may pass on their own or be removed medically. However, the scarring from the sarcoidosis can have long-term effects on the health of the kidney.
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