7 Dimensions of Wellness

7 Dimensions of Wellness
7 Dimensions of Wellness

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What was that illness Bernie Mac had? -Sarcoidosis


Sarcoidosis—what's that?
It's an immune system disorder that affects tens of thousands of Americans. Symptoms include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, small red bumps on the face, arms or buttocks, red, watery eyes, and arthritis in the ankles, elbows, wrists and hands, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most cases are mild, but severe cases can cause scarring in the lungs, a complication that occurs in 20 to 25 percent of patients.

What causes it?
Typically, our bodies fight perceived threats with an inflammatory response. With sarcoidosis, this response becomes excessive and ends up producing small clumps of cells that can cluster throughout the body. Large clusters can interfere with the functioning of organs, most commonly the lungs (more than 90 percent of cases), the eyes and the skin. In addition to lung scarring, it can cause serious eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, or aching and swelling in the legs accompanied by arthritis.

Who gets it?
This is primary an illness of adults in the 20- to 40-year-old range. African-Americans are more prone to the condition than whites (the incidence rate among blacks is 35.5 cases per 100,000; among whites it's 10.9 per 100,000). African-American women are twice as likely as African-American men to be struck with the illness.

Why do people get it?
It's not clear what causes sarcoidosis, though experts believe environmental contaminants can help trigger a genetic susceptibility. Studies have found a link between this condition and irritants such as tree pollen, insecticides and moldy environments.

Can it be cured?
Not currently. The most common treatment is Prednisone, a steroid that can have serious side effects. Occasionally, physicians prescribe drugs known as immune system suppressants (such as Plaquenil and Methotrexate). While sarcoidosis can be severe, less than 5 percent of patients die of it. In the vast majority of cases, symptoms are mild and disappear over time. Mac had the condition until it went into remission in 2005. About one-third of patients have an "unrelenting," progressive form of this illness that typically leads to organ impairment.

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