The immune system is the body’s defense against infectious organisms and other foreign invaders. The immune system consists of white blood cells, or leukocytes. They combine and seek out to destroy disease causing organisms or substances. Leukocytes are produced and stored in various locations within the body and are housed in lymph nodes. Leukocytes are categorized as phagocytes, which chew up invading organisms and lymphocytes which memorize previous invaders and assist the body in the destruction of such organisms.
The immune disease I chose to discuss is sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is a “multi-organ” disease, meaning it always involves more than one organ. The organ is affected with granulomas, masses of inflamed tissue, or lumps, which form and cause abnormalities. This disease most often occurs in the lungs. Most commonly affected are the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, and liver. Least common are the spleen, brain, nerves, heart, tear glands, salivary glands, sinuses, bones, and joints. This disease rarely affects kidneys, breasts, and the reproductive organs of males and females.
Non-specific symptoms are fever, fatigue, weight-loss, night sweats, undying cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. More than half of the people with sarcoidosis symptoms show signs of clinical depression. No one knows for sure what causes this disease, but there is a strong suggestion that genetics plays a role. Certain ethnic groups and people between the ages of 20-40 are most commonly affected. African Americans are overall more than likely to contract sarcoidosis, and even more generally, women.
Diagnosis is determined through many different methods that start with a physical examination, in which the MD will look for signs and symptoms such as red bumps on the skin, swollen lymph nodes, or redness in the eyes, along with others. A chest X-ray can be used to show the lumps called granulomas. A staging system ranging from 0, which is considered normal, to 4, which is will reveal scar tissue, is also used. Sarcoidosis can also be detected by blood tests, namely the ACE, or angiotensin test. Since the Ace isn’t always elevated, other blood tests are used to show iver, kidney, and bone marrow abnormalities that can occur with sarcoidosis. Other options of diagnosis are pulmonary function tests, fiber optic bronchoscopy, CT scan; MRI, heart, and eye tests are just a few methods of detecting this disease. Treatment of sarcoidosis often depends on the specific needs and symptoms of each patient, especially since the severity ranges. Most of the treatments of this disease suppress the immune system. Good communication with your doctor and regular visits with your healthcare provider, along with drug therapy and follow up exams are the best way to combat the progression of sarcoidosis.