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Sarcoidosis is a common disease that can affect several parts of the body. The cause of the disease is unknown, and it often gets better without treatment. Sarcoidosis is more likely among some ethnic groups (including African‐Americans and African‐Caribbeans), for whom the disease has worse outcomes. When sarcoidosis affects the lungs, it can cause breathlessness, coughs, and lung problems, and l... more

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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Sarcoidosis

Last reviewed: May 30, 2013.

Sarcoidosis is a disease in which inflammation occurs in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, or other tissues.

Causes

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. What is known is that when a person has the disease, 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. It most commonly affects the lungs.

Doctors think that with sarcoidosis, persons have genes that make it easy for them to develop the disease. Things that may trigger the disease include infections with bacteria or viruses. Contact with dust or chemicals may also be triggers.

The disease is more common in African-Americans and Caucasians of Scandinavian heritage. More women than men have the disease.

The disease often begins between ages 20 and 40. Sarcoidosis is rare in young children.

A person with a close blood relative who has sarcoidosis is nearly five times as likely to develop the condition.

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can involve almost any body part or organ system.

Almost all patients have lung or chest symptoms:

Symptoms of general discomfort:

Skin symptoms:

Nervous system symptoms may include:

Eye symptoms include:

  • Burning
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Dry eyes
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Vision loss

Other symptoms of this disease:

Exams and Tests

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.

The following lab tests may be done:

Treatment

Sarcoidosis symptoms will often get better without treatment.

If the eyes, heart, nervous system, or lungs are affected, corticosteroid medicine is usually prescribed. this medicine may need to be taken for 1 to 2 years.

Medicines that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressive medicines) are sometimes also needed.

In rare cases, some persons with very severe heart or lung damage (end-stage disease) may need an organ transplant.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many people with sarcoidosis are not seriously ill, and they get better without treatment. Up to half of all persons with the disease get better in 3 years without treatment.  Persons whose lungs are affected may develop lung damage.

Overall death rate from sarcoidosis is less than 5%. Causes of death include:

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider promptly if you have:

References

  1. 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: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 59.
  2. Iannuzzi M. Sarcoidosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI. Goldman's Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 95.

Review Date: 5/30/2013.

Reviewed by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Immunosuppressive and cytotoxic therapy for pulmonary sarcoidosisImmunosuppressive and cytotoxic therapy for pulmonary sarcoidosis
    Sarcoidosis is a condition that can affect most of the organs in the body, including the lungs, heart, brain, bones, liver and skin. Patients who have severe disease or those who do not respond to treatment with steroids are often given powerful agents that suppress the immune system in an attempt to control the disease. However, these drugs have severe side effects. There is no evidence at the moment that the benefits of these drugs outweigh their side effects.
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Figures

  • Sarcoid, stage I - chest x-ray.
    Sarcoid, stage II - chest x-ray.
    Sarcoid, stage IV - chest x-ray.
    Sarcoid - close-up of the skin lesions.
    Erythema nodosum associated with sarcoidosis.
    Sarcoidosis - close-up.
    Sarcoidosis on the elbow.
    Sarcoidosis on the nose and forehead.
    Respiratory system.

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