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What Is Neurosarcoidosis?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Sarcoidosis is a disease that causes chronic inflammation. When it spreads to the nervous system, the condition is called neurosarcoidosis. Muscle twitches or weakness are possible symptoms of neurosarcoidosis, and if the brain is affected, the disease can also affect regulatory actions such as sleepiness or temperature control. Neurosarcoidosis is incurable, but in many cases, the condition resolves itself.

Most commonly affecting the lungs, sarcoidosis causes abnormal cell growths known as granulomas to grow in the body. The growths are made up of cells that are usually involved in the immune system. Inflammation results in the areas the growths occur. The cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, but environmental conditions, genetics, and abnormal responses to infection may play roles. Sarcoidosis generally affects adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

Neurosarcoidosis can affect the brain, the spinal cord, or the peripheral nerves that supply the rest of the body. As the disease can affect any nerve, the symptoms are varied. Affected nerves that send impulses to the body to move muscles may cause twitches or weakness. Nerves that transmit stimuli such as touch or smell may not function correctly. Brain function such as temperature regulation, stress, and sleep signaling can also be altered.

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The most common symptom of neurosarcoidosis is Bell's Palsy. Bell's Palsy is a weakness in facial muscles on one side of the face. This causes drooping or weakness of the muscle. If other peripheral nerves are affected by granulomas, symptoms can include muscle weakness, muscle paralysis, and loss of sensation.

When the pituitary gland in the brain is involved, symptoms such as abnormal thirst, fatigue, and abnormal menstruation can occur. An affected brain can result in mental or physical symptoms. Mental symptoms can include delirium, confusion, and dementia. A patient can also show a decrease in senses such as taste, smell, or sound. Seizures, dizziness, and vision problems are also possible symptoms.

The many possible and varied symptoms of neurosarcoidosis, due to the many parts of the nervous system the disease can attack, mean that the condition is difficult to diagnose. The primary treatment for the condition is to use steroids. Drugs that regulate or suppress the immune system inflammation, such as hydroxychloroquine or methotrexate, may also be beneficial.

Commonly, the disease resolves itself, and this may take as little as four months, although it can last for years. In other cases, neurosarcoidosis either remains active constantly or flares up over a lifetime. Neurosarcoidosis is potentially disabling and can even be fatal.

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