Sarcoidosis – Understanding A Disease With So Many Symptoms

2012-06-14 | |
Last updated: 2012-06-14

In popular culture, some ideas are afforded a significant amount of attention whether or not the idea benefits from that much focus. One example of this is with regard to the disease Sarcoidosis. Although most of us do not know of anyone with the disease, we have likely heard about it on television. In the medical detective/drama series “House”, the condition is frequently one of the initial possible diagnoses for patients with an otherwise unknown condition. Such regular mention of the disease has dramatically increased awareness of its existence.

Unfortunately, the handling of Sarcoidosis by the writers of the series has been done trivially leaving most people with little to no understanding of the disease. Considering that the condition is not well understood and does not have well-defined treatments, this handling of the medical condition does a disservice to those who live with the unpredictable health effects of the condition. The writers continue to miss a very real opportunity to educate the public and raise more awareness regarding Sarcoidosis so this article will attempt to fill this gap.

What Is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system responds in an extreme manner to what it perceives are infections. In people with the disease, the immune system becomes very active in specific locations around the body. As a result, immune cells accumulate around the affected area to form large, dense clusters of scar tissue in a misguided attempt to prevent the potential infection from reaching other areas of the body. In the case of someone without this disease, the formation of these cell clusters would only occur in cases of prolonged infection.

For the majority of people affected by the disease, it is not fatal. However, it can have significant effects on quality of life depending on severity. The exact effects that it will have on a person vary significantly. This is because the severity of the disease can vary considerably as can the specific tissues that are affected. What this means is that the appropriate treatment and its effectiveness will also vary.

Though generally not fatal, among those who develop the disease, as many as 5% will die as a consequence. Among African American women, however, the disease is much more dangerous. Research from Boston University, published this year, indicates that the disease was responsible for more than 25% of the deaths of women who were diagnosed with Sarcoidosis.

In addition to the challenges that the disease poses because of the range of symptoms and severities, the causes of Sarcoidosis are also not well understood. There are a number of theories but research is still working to really understand the disease. If that were not enough, the ability of the disease to disappear entirely, especially in those with more mild symptoms, makes it that much more of a mystery.

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Category: Disease Information, General Health, Medical Research, Symptom Information

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