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.
Factors that may increase your risk of sarcoidosis include:
- Age: 20 to 40
- Sex: female
- Ethnic descent: African-American, Northern European, Scandinavian, and Irish
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 patients it is chronic.
Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pain or irritation of eyes
- Fatigue, especially with exertion
- Muscle weakness
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty hearing
- Blurred vision or blindness
- Poor coordination
- Trouble walking
- Irregular heart rate
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints
- Facial paralysis known as Bell's Palsy
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. Instead, the diagnosis is made based on symptoms and medical tests that are usually positive in patients with this condition.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
Your bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
- CT scan
- Gallium scan
Your heart activity may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).
Your lung function may be tested. This can be done with pulmonary function tests (PFTs).
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:
- Prednisone to decrease inflammation
- Methotrexate or azathioprine may be used for patients who do not respond to steroids
- Hydroxychloroquine to treat skin problems
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents to treat musculoskeletal symptoms
- Pulmonary rehabilitation programs to improve lung function
- Topical steroids to treat rashes
- Eye drops to treat mild eye problems
Although doctors do not know the exact cause of sarcoidosis, they believe infections or exposure to chemicals may bring on the disease. Steps for prevention may include:
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals and toxins.
- To prevent infection, wash your hands before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom.
American Lung Association
The Arthritis Society
The Canadian Lung Association
Sarcoidosis. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/sarcoidosis/. Accessed August 15, 2013.
Sarcoidosis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 25, 2013. Accessed August 15, 2013.
Sarcoidosis in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 28, 2011. Accessed August 15, 2013.
What is 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 August 15, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; 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.