Sarcoidosis is a disease in which inflammation occurs in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, or other tissues.
The cause of the disease is unknown. In sarcoidosis, tiny clumps of abnormal tissue (granulomas) form in certain organs of the body. Granulomas are clusters of immune cells.
The disease can affect almost any organ of the body, but it most commonly affects the lungs.
Possible causes of sarcoidosis include:
The condition is more common in African Americans than Caucasians, especially in Caucasians of Scandinavian heritage. Females are usually affected more often than males.
The disease typically begins between ages 20 and 40. Sarcoidosis is very rare in young children.
A person with a close blood relative who has sarcoidosis is nearly five times as likely to develop the condition.
There may be no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can involve almost any body part or organ system in your body.
Almost all patients have lung or chest symptoms:
Symptoms of general discomfort or uneasiness often occur:
Nervous system symptoms may include:
Eye symptoms include:
Other symptoms of this disease:
A physical exam may show the following:
Often the disease is found in patients with visible physical signs who have an abnormal chest x-ray.
Different imaging tests may help diagnose sarcoidosis:
To diagnose this condition, a biopsy is needed. Biopsy of the lung using bronchoscopy is usually done. Biopsies of other body tissues may also be done.
This disease may affect the results of the following lab tests:
Sarcoidosis symptoms will often get better on their own slowly without treatment.
Patients whose eyes, heart, nervous system, or lungs are involved may need to be treated with corticosteroids (prednisone or methylprednisolone). Therapy may continue for 1 or 2 years. The most severely affected patients may need lifelong therapy.
Drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressive medicines) are sometimes also needed:
Rarely, some people with end-stage heart or lung damage may need an organ transplant.
Many people with sarcoidosis are not seriously ill, and the disease may get better without treatment. About 30 - 50% of cases get better without treatment in 3 years. About 20% of people whose lungs are involved will develop lung damage.
The overall death rate from sarcoidosis is less than 5%. Causes of death include:
Call your health care provider if you have:
Drake W, Newman LS. Sarcoidosis. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin Tr, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 59.
Iannuzzi MC, Rybicki Ba, Teirstein AS. Sarcoidosis. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:2153-2165.
Weinberger SE. Sarcoidosis. Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 95.