What are Granulomas?

This article discusses the nodules that sometimes grow in your body that are non cancerous and are called granulomas.

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Your immune system is the military of your body. One of its favorite ways to win the battle against foreign objects that invade your body is to surround and isolate them. In most cases, this results in the foreign body being digested by your immune cells in one way or another. However, when something foreign is discovered that you immune cells cannot kill and digest, they will encapsulate it so that it cannot do further damage to your body. Often what results is a special type of nodule that medical science calls a granuloma.

Granulomas can be found in almost any organ of the body.

Granulomas have been noted in the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestine, and muscle tissue. Any place that a fungus or bacteria can invade, a granuloma can form. When food is aspirated into a lung, a granuloma often forms to prevent it from causing damage to your body. These obviously form in the airways. Nearly everyone has a granuloma somewhere in their body. They are especially prevalent in the lymphsystem. Fungal infections in the lungs can result in granulomas that eventually calcify and will show as bone on an X-ray. Some granulomas are mistaken for cancers until they can be biopsied. Granulomas are not cancer and generally are not dangerous to your health.

Granulomas begin as a cluster of cells that wall off an invader.

Macrophages unite and bind together to create ball of cells that contain the foreign matter. They can merge together to form a much larger cell called a multinucleated giant cell. Even if this phenomenon does not occur, the cells are so tightly packed together that they almost seem to be a unified mass. Other types of immune cells are often contained in a granuloma along with the macrophages. Various types of granulomas form as a result of diseases ranging from tuberculosis to syphilis.

When granulomas are biopsied and analyzed, the underlying cause for its formation can be discovered.

The contents of the the interior of the granuloma may be living or dead. By examining the nature of this material, the pathologist can determine the most likely reason for the granuloma to be formed. Certain identifiable characteristics make this a simple call when some diseases are involved. A cheese-like substance within the granuloma that has been extracted from a lung will point toward a tuberculosis infection as the culprit.

Doctors often prefer to biopsy a nodule rather that assume that it is a granuloma.

On X-ray images and various diagnostic scans, granulomas are difficult to distinguish from other nodules that might be cancerous. Because of this, it is considered best to biopsy the nodule and let the laboratory make the determination about its composition. Using dyes and microscopes, most labs have little trouble identifying a granuloma.

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