What Is Skin Sarcoidosis?

Mary McMahon

Skin sarcoidosis is an autoimmune condition characterized by skin reactions like nodules, plaques, and rashes. In addition to skin symptoms, patients may experience problems with other body organs, and the condition can spread over time. Treatment for sarcoidosis depends on the form the patient has, and usually starts with a wait-and-see approach to determine if it will resolve on its own. If it does not, anti-immune drugs are necessary to suppress the immune system and address the problem.

Skin sarcoidosis is characterized by skin rashes.
Skin sarcoidosis is characterized by skin rashes.

Sarcoidosis involves the formation of pockets of inflammatory cells that may cluster together, creating bumps in the organs. This can lead to organ dysfunction, depending on the location of the abnormal cells. In the lungs, for example, the condition may lead to shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Skin sarcoidosis can make the skin more sensitive and may expose the patient to the risk of infection, as the lesions can break through the skin.

Patients with skin sarcoidosis can experience a variety of skin lesions. Some develop bumps or nodules, which may be hard, on the legs, face, and neck. These are often red and irritated. Others may have skin plaques or rashes. Itchy, painful skin can be an issue, and the patient may scratch, making the problem worse over time. Scars, birthmarks, and tattoos may distort as a result of the nodules, and patients may experience unwanted social attention because of the skin changes.

Some cases of skin sarcoidosis resolve after six to eight weeks, and the patient may experience no additional ill effects after recovering from the condition. In these patients, keeping the skin soothed is important; it can be helpful to use topical creams to limit itching, for example, so the patient doesn't scratch and inadvertently create scars. In other cases, the sarcoidosis becomes chronic and may spread, posing a health risk. These patients need treatment with steroids and other drugs with an immunosuppressive effect and may need to take these drugs in the long term, as there is a risk of recurrence when they stop.

Treatment for skin sarcoidosis can involve input from a dermatologist as well as an immune specialist. New treatments are constantly under development, and patients with the chronic form may want to discuss the latest research and treatment protocols before making a decision about how they want to proceed with their treatment. It may also be possible to join a clinical trial to try a new medication or treatment protocol.

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