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Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes inflammation of the body tissues. This leads to small lumps called granulomas. The disease can affect any organ in the body. But it often starts in the lungs and lymph nodes.
It is not known what causes sarcoidosis. It results from a problem with the body’s immune system. The main job of the immune system is to help the body fight infection. Persons of any age, race, or gender can have it. But it happens most often in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
When you breathe in, you inhale air that is full of oxygen. The oxygen travels from the lungs to the blood. Then it is carried to the rest of the body. With pulmonary sarcoidosis, the lungs become scarred. This is called pulmonary fibrosis. This scarring can make it hard to take a full breath. The damage can also make it hard for oxygen to pass from the lungs into the blood.
Most people have no symptoms at all. If symptoms do occur, they can include dry cough, tightness in the chest, and tiredness. Wheezing, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite can also occur. In some cases, pulmonary sarcoidosis stops getting worse. It may even go away. In other cases, the disease is chronic (long-lasting).
Many people don’t need treatment. The disease may not cause symptoms. And it may go away on its own. But treatment can be done to help relieve symptoms. It can reduce inflammation and help prevent damage. Medications are used to treat the disease. More than one may be used. They may be taken in pill form. Or, they may be inhaled. Some common ones are listed below.
Prednisone. This is an anti-inflammatory steroid (corticosteroid). It helps prevent or reduce inflammation that can harm lungs.
Azathioprine. This is an anti-inflammatory medication. It may be used alone or with prednisone. It helps reduce lung inflammation.
Cyclophosphamide. This is a type of anti-inflammatory medication. It may be used with prednisone. You may be given it as a single dose if you have problems with prednisone.
Note: These medications can have serious side effects. Talk to your doctor about them. Do not stop taking a medication unless your doctor says it’s okay. And tell your doctor or pharmacist about all medications you use. This includes over-the-counter medications. It also includes herbs or supplements.