Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis Diagnosis: How It Affects You

What Is Sarcoidosis?

Sarcoidosis was originally called Hutchinson’s disease or Boeck’s disease – named after Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Boeck, who were both researching this disease independently. Dr. Boeck renamed this disease Sarcoidosis, which stems from the Greek words “oid” and “sark”, meaning “flesh-like”. These words describe frequently occurring skin eruptions that are caused by the illness. In this article we will take a look at Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis and how you are affected…

The United States declared a national Sarcoidosis Awareness Day in 1990 due to the increased prevalence of the disease and to increase public awareness.

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease affecting multiple organs, but most commonly affects the lungs and lymph glands. Since Sarcoidosis mimics many other diseases, the number of people who actually have sarcoidosis is thought to be considerably higher than the number reported.

Although it occurs throughout the world and can affect individuals of all ages, race, and genders, sarcoidosis most commonly strikes adults between 20 and 40 years of age.

The disease can appear suddenly and then disappear, or it can develop gradually and produce symptoms that come and go for a lifetime. It is estimated that up to four in 10,000 people in the U.S. have sarcoidosis.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have sarcoidosis until complications arise. Correct diagnosis and treatment for  this condition is very important where heart health is concerned. If left untreated, sarcoidosis can be fatal.

Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis Symptoms

  •  Reddish patches or bumps  under the skin or on the skin
  • Enlarged lymph glands around the lungs and within the chest, producing shortness of breath and persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • General feeling of ill health
  • Red teary eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Swollen  painful joints
  • Enlarged lymph glands in the armpits, neck and groin
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pain in the hands, feet or other bony areas due to cyst formation in the bones
  • Kidney stones
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Development of arrhythmias, abnormal or missed heartbeats
  • Inflammation of the covering of the heart (pericarditis), or heart failure
  • Affected nervous system may include meningitis, hearing loss, seizures or psychiatric disorders

 

Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

 

Because sarcoidosis is a multi-system disorder that can affect many different internal organs as well as the skin, patients affected by this complex disease would do well to seek treatment at a multi-disciplinary sarcoidosis specialty center.

These specialists have expertise and a specific interest in Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis:

  • Pulmonologists
  • Cardiologists
  • Electrophysiologists
  • Neurologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Dermatologists
  • Rheumatologists

 

Patients with Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

In past years, undiagnosed sarcoidosis patients with pericarditis symptoms were treated for pericarditis with the usual treatment and then released from the hospital. The symptoms and effects of this immunological disease were not as well known, or as properly documented as they are today, so doctors were unaware of the proper way to treat patients.

The traditional treatment for pericarditis initially appeared to improve the patient’s condition, and they were consequently released from the hospital. However, over time the symptoms would reappear due to the underlying sarcoidosis.

How Is Sarcoidosis Characterized

Sarcoidosis is characterized by non-caseating granulomas in affected organs, and primarily affects the lungs. Sarcoidosis with pleural and pericardial effusion was (and still is) extremely rare, and for that reason was not found in medical records as a cause of pericarditis.

Since patients were returning to the hospital with similar or worse symptoms, doctors had to implement a more interdisciplinary approach and test for rheumatologic illnesses and malignancies, as well as chronic infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and syphilis.

Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis Is Acknowledged By Doctors

Now that doctors acknowledge sarcoidosis as a possible cause of pericarditis, it is possible to treat patients with successful and lasting results. Today, patients who have a bilateral pleural and pericardial effusion with an unknown cause of origin must be tested for non-caseating granulomas as well as mycobacterial infections, berylliosis and sarcoidosis.

Treatment Options For Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

Besides the usual treatment by the cardiologist based on specific conditions of the pericarditis, steroids remain the favored treatment for patients with systemic sarcoidosis involving the cardiovascular system, nervous system and eyes.

The early introduction of steroid use is useful for preventing the progression of the disease in patients with progressive pulmonary deterioration, and may improve the patient’s wellbeing.

Patients with asymptomatic pulmonary sarcoidosis are best treated with a wait-and-watch approach and the usual treatment for pericardial effusion implemented on idiopathic pericarditis cases while further test are conducted.

Monitoring the progress of  treatment by a multidisciplinary team helps prevent complications while increasing the medical community’s knowledge and experience of the illness. This will help with future treatment of patients whose symptoms indicate sarcoidosis as the possible cause of pericarditis.

Although treating the inflammation of the pericardium improves the condition of the patient right away, it is important for further tests to be implemented.

Preventative measures for Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

The patient and treating team can work together to create an appropriate lifestyle plan to avoid and stop any  future complications. Preventive measures can include:

  •  Exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Healthy diet choices
  • Health supplements
  • No smoking
  • Weight loss
  • Limiting of alcohol intake

 

Reducing other lifestyle choices that can harm the body and lead to immunodeficiency manifestations are advised for better health and wellbeing.

Although doctors fear a possible evolution towards constrictive pericarditis, this complication is currently not recorded in cases of acute and recurrent pericarditis with viral and idiopathic causes of origin. In these cases, the prognosis is good and the risk of constriction is related to the presence of a specific etiology, not the number of recurrences.

Additional Tests for Diagnoses Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis:

  •  Video-assisted thoracoscopic pleural biopsy to investigate  the suspected presence of sarcoidosis in the lungs
  • Clinical and radiological report looking for swollen lymph nodes
  • CT scan to provide a thorough, in-depth, detailed investigation of the lungs and lymph nodes

Although the number of cases of patients presenting with symptoms of pericarditis due to an underlying cause of sarcoidosis still remains rare today, tests to determine if there is a link with Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis should always be closely investigated by the treating physician/s. If the patient’s condition doesn’t improve or recurrent pericarditis occurs, sarcoidosis could be the hidden cause.

Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

Closing Thoughts On Pericarditis and Sarcoidosis

Today the scientific community of doctors, specialists and research scientists specializing in this disease are aware of how important is to use innovative cutting edge medical methods of care, the latest technology and research in providing comprehensive care for patients suffering from pericarditis and sarcoidosis as a root cause of origin.

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