Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects the cells of any organ in the body. Sarcoidosis is thought to be a common disease and can affect people of any age, race or gender. It commonly affects African Americans, specifically African American women, and people of Scandinavian descent.

In 90 percent of cases sarcoidosis targets the lungs, but may affect the following body parts:

  • Lungs
  • Lymph nodes
  • Eyes
  • Skin
  • Liver
  • Salivary glands
  • Sinuses
  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Muscles and bones
  • Brain and nervous system

When sarcoidosis attacks an organ, it causes granulomas to form which can affect organ function if clustered together.

Causes of Sarcoidosis

The specific cause of this condition is unknown. Some researchers believe that sarcoidosis is caused by a combination of genetic factors, especially since family members tend to develop this disease. It is also believed that sarcoidosis is the result of exposure to certain bacteria, viruses or chemicals. Patients with this condition also develop granulomas within the immune system cells that weaken protection against invading substances and put the body at risk for worsening conditions.

Symptoms of Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis may cause varying symptoms, depending on which organs are affected and the duration of the disease, but symptoms often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Joint pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash
  • Skin nodules or lesions
  • Blurred vision or eye pain

These symptoms can appear suddenly or may develop gradually over time and last for many years.

Diagnosis of Sarcoidosis

Because of its varying symptoms and ability to affect different organs, sarcoidosis is often difficult to diagnose. Your doctor may perform the following diagnostic tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Biopsy of lung tissue
  • Breath test

Treatment of Sarcoidosis

Patients with only mild symptoms may not require any treatment for sarcoidosis other than regular monitoring of the condition. For those with troublesome or threatening symptoms, medications may be prescribed to protect affected areas, and may include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Anti-rejection drugs
  • TNF-alpha inhibitors

Most cases of sarcoidosis can be resolved with no permanent complications, but others may lead to severe lung damage, blindness, kidney failure and other serious problems. Organ transplant surgery may be required for severe cases of sarcoidosis.

Additional Resources