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Monday, December 9, 2013
Is Sarcoidosis An Autoimmune Disease?
Is sarcoidosis an autoimmune disease?
This is an excellent question. By definition, the term "autoimmune" infers that the immune system has turned against us. For example, systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) or "lupus" is believed to be caused by immune reactions to various substances normally engaged in DNA replication when they are released from our own cells after they are damaged. These substances released from our own cells to cause an immune response are called "self antigens".
To date, no convincing evidence links a specific self antigen to sarcoidosis. Some experts believe sarcoidosis is not an autoimmune disease based on evidence linking exposure to certain environmental agents, including certain infections, with the disease.
However, the actual cause of sarcoidosis remains unclear. It is even possible that sarcoidosis may be caused by different mechanisms, which might explain why the disease is so different from one individual to the next.
There are currently a relatively small number of researchers investigating the cause of sarcoidosis. Obviously, more work needs to be done to determine the cause (or causes) of sarcoidosis such that more effective treatments can be offered.
Elliott D Crouser, MD
Associate Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University