The month of April was declared National Sarcoidosis Awareness Month by US Congress in 2008.National Sarcoidosis Awareness Month is supported by a number of health organizations including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Sarcoidosis Association, and the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR).The aim of this event is to raise awareness about sarcoidosis and encourage further research into this rare condition.
Sarcoidosis (pronounced SAR-COY-DOE-SIS) is an inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of granulomas, tiny clumps of inflammatory cells, in one or more organs of the body. When the immune system goes into overdrive and too many of these clumps form, they can interfere with an organ’s structure and function. When left unchecked, chronic inflammation can lead to fibrosis, which is permanent thickening or scarring of organ tissue.
This disorder can affect almost any organ in the body, including the heart, skin, liver, kidneys, brain, sinuses, eyes, muscles, bones, and other areas. Sarcoidosis most commonly targets the lungs and the lymph nodes, which are an important part of the immune system. When it affects the lungs, it is called pulmonary sarcoidosis. Ninety percent or more of people diagnosed with the disease have lung involvement.
When the Eyes are Affected
Sarcoidosis can affect the eyes without causing any symptoms, so it’s important to have your eyes checked when eye symptoms do occur.
Sarcoidosis affects the eyes in a quarter or more of people with the disease. Many eye related sarcoid problems are treatable with various options.
Eye symptoms can include:
- Burning, itching, and/or pain
- Red eyes
- Vision problems, such as seeing black spots or having blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Small, pale yellow bumps on the eye
Sarcoidosis often has ophthalmologic manifestations
- Uveitis (the most common eye problem), which is inflammation of the middle membrane – or the uvea – of the eye.
- Dry eye syndrome (also called keratoconjunctivitis), which occurs when the tear ducts are blocked by inflammation.
- Tear gland enlargement (also called lacrimal gland enlargement), which occurs when the tear glands are swollen by inflammation and granulomas.
- Glaucoma, cataracts, and blindness, which are rare but serious problems that can occur if uveitis goes untreated.