Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that may affect many different parts of the body. Small round spots, called granulomas, form in various organs. The spots slow down normal functioning of those organs.
The cause of sarcoidosis is not known. It seems to be related to malfunctioning of the immune system. The disease may be triggered by an infection or exposure to a toxin in the environment.
Some people may be more susceptible to sarcoidosis due to genetic or environmental factors.
Sarcoidosis is more common in females and at ages 20 to 40 years old. Factors that may increase the chance of sarcoidosis include: Ethnic descent—African-American, Northern European, Scandinavian, and IrishHistory of sarcoidosis in: First-degree relative—parents and siblingsSecond degree relatives—uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild, and half-siblingExposures to dusty or moldy environment orcertain occupations.
Symptoms vary and can occur in different parts of the body, depending on where the granulomas form. Most symptoms develop in the lungs, skin, eyes, and liver. Multiple body systems may be affected. Symptoms may come and go. This disease is often acute, but in some people, it is chronic.
Symptoms may include: CoughShortness of breathWheezingChest painRash with swelling—erythema nodosumFeverPain or irritation of eyesFatigue, especially with exertionMuscle weaknessNight sweatsLoss of appetiteWeight lossSwollen lymph nodesSeizuresTremorsDifficulty hearingBlurred vision or blindnessPoor coordinationTrouble walkingIrregular heart ratePain, swelling, and stiffness in the jointsFacial paralysis known as Bell's palsy
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An eye exam may also be done. There is no specific lab test that confirms a diagnosis of sarcoidosis, but tests may include: Blood testsUrine testsBiopsy
Imaging tests evaluate bodily structures. These may include: X-raysBronchoscopyCT scanGallium scan
Your heart activity may be tested. This can be done with an
Your lung function may be tested. This can be done with
pulmonary function tests (PFTs).
Diagnosis is based on all of the following criteria: The combination of typical symptoms and results on imaging tests (mainly an x-ray)Biopsy that shows the presence of granulomas (from the easiest organ to get tissue samples from)Exclusion of other causes
Treatment aims to ease symptoms and minimize permanent problems. Treatment may include:
You need regular medical and eye exams to monitor for symptoms and complications of sarcoidosis.
Drugs that may be prescribed include the following: Steroids to decrease inflammationMethotrexate,
azathioprine, or anti-tumor necrosis
factor biologics may be used for those who do not respond to steroidsHydroxychloroquine
to treat skin problemsNonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat musculoskeletal symptomsPulmonary rehabilitation programs to improve lung functionTopical steroids to treat rashesEye drops to treat mild eye problems
To help minimize your symptoms:
If you smoke,
talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit.
Avoid exposure to dust and chemicals.Notify your doctor at right away if any symptoms develop or worsen.
There are no current guidelines to prevent sarcoidosis because the cause is unknown.
Explore sarcoidosis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sarc. Updated June 14, 2013. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Sarcoidosis. American Lung Association website. Available at:
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sarcoidosis. Accessed May 13, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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