How Is Sarcoidosis Diagnosed?
There is no single way to diagnose sarcoidosis, since all the symptoms and laboratory results can occur in other diseases. For this reason, your doctor will carefully review your medical history and examine you to determine if you have sarcoidosis. The main tools your doctor will use to diagnose sarcoidosis include:
Chest X-rays to look for cloudiness (pulmonary infiltrates) or swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy).
to provide an even more detailed look at the lungs and lymph nodes than provided by a chest X-ray.
Pulmonary function (breathing) tests to measure how well the lungs are working.
Bronchoscopy to inspect the bronchial tubes and to extract a biopsy (a small tissue sample) to look for granulomas and to obtain material to rule out infection. Bronchoscopy involves passing a small tube (bronchoscope) down the trachea (windpipe) and into the bronchial tubes (airways) of the lungs.
How Is Sarcoidosis Treated?
There is no cure for sarcoidosis, but the disease may get better on its own over time. Many people with sarcoidosis have mild symptoms and do not require any treatment. Treatment, when it is needed, is given to reduce symptoms and to maintain the proper working order of the affected organs.
Treatments generally fall into two categories -- maintenance of good health practices and drug treatment. Good health practices include:
- Getting regular check-ups with your health care provider
- Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Drinking enough fluids every day
- Getting six to eight hours of sleep each night
- Exercising regularly and managing your weight
- Quitting smoking
Drug treatments are used to relieve symptoms and reduce the inflammation of the affected tissues. The oral corticosteroid prednisone is the most commonly used treatment. Fatigue and persistent cough are usually improved with steroid treatment. If steroids are prescribed, you should see your doctor at regular intervals so that he or she can monitor the disease and the side effects of treatment. Other treatment options include methotrexate(Otrexup, Rheumatrex), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), and other drugs.
What Can Happen As the Disease Progresses?
In many people with sarcoidosis, the disease appears briefly and then disappears without the person even knowing they have the disease. Twenty percent to 30% of people have some permanent lung damage. For a small number of people, sarcoidosis is a chronic condition. In some people, the disease may result in the deterioration of the affected organ. Rarely, sarcoidosis can be fatal. Death usually is the result of complications with the lungs, heart, or brain.