Modern medicine seeking the right blend of medicine to treat tricky sarcoidosis

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Twenty-first-century medicine has solved many mysteries, but just as many remain.

One is sarcoidosis; it seriously affects some people, while others don't know they have it.

For Sean Carney, of Newtown, Pa., the diagnosis was accidental.

"I had an X-ray on my stomach, I was having stomach pains. And in that X-ray, the doctor saw spots that he wanted to have looked at," Carney said.

Those spots on his lungs were signs of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.

"Immune cells clump up, and they are called granuloma," says Dr. Rohit Gupta of Temple Health.

The cell clumps strike lungs and lymph nodes most, but can also affect the eyes, skin, heart, kidneys, nervous system - almost any organ.

"Some people have a lot of inflammation, while other patients don't have that much inflammation," says Dr. Gupta.

Sean recalls having some coughing and shortness of breath but thought it was his allergies.

There's no cure for sarcoidosis, but there are treatments.

Just after his diagnosis, his doctor had him on prednisone, a steroid.

"While I showed immediate signs of improvement, long-term use of steroids at a young age wasn't something I was overly thrilled about," says Carney.

But when he switched to Temple Health, Dr. Rohit Gupta thought to move toward other drugs made sense.

"It can be pretty devastating for the body organs to handle that much of steroids," advises Dr. Gupta.

"So we stayed on steroids, just at a lower dose. And then he introduced another form of medication known as methotrexate," says Carney.

Some sarcoidosis patients take rheumatoid arthritis drugs or even hydroxychloroquine, depending on their symptoms.

"The most important thing is to kind of suppress the inflammation," says Dr. Gupta.

It worked. Sean is off medication completely.

"I can play sports, do anything, without limitation, which is phenomenal," he says.

They'd planned all along to bring the doses down to zero, but the pandemic sped up the process.

People with suppressed immune systems face a higher risk of serious complications if they contract COVID-19.
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