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Sarcoidosis

Overview

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that causes the formation of tiny clusters of cells, called granulomas, in one or more organs of the body. It most often affects the lungs and the lymph nodes. In fact, the lungs are affected in about 90% of all cases.

Sarcoidosis can either be acute or chronic, with the condition considered chronic if it remains active longer than two years. As many as 200,000 Americans and 1.2 million people worldwide experience some type of sarcoidosis.

  • Types

    • Acute sarcoidosis
    • Chronic sarcoidosis
  • Symptoms

    • Blurry vision or sensitivity to light
    • Burning or itching eyes
    • Chest pain
    • Fainting
    • Fatigue
    • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
    • Light sensitivity
    • Pain or swelling in the joints
    • Persistent, dry cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Skin problems, including a rash or areas of skin that are darker or lighter
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Weight loss
    • Wheezing
  • Pevention

    No way to prevent sarcoidosis is known.

  • Risk Factors

    • Age between 20 and 60
    • Being African American
    • Family history of sarcoidosis
    • Female sex
  • Diagnosis

    • Medical history and symptom review. Because the symptoms of sarcoidosis can be very similar to those of other medical conditions, your first visit will include a careful review of your symptoms, your personal and family medical history, and your lifestyle habits.
    • Physical examination. Following a discussion about your symptoms, your medical provider will perform a comprehensive physical examination. This exam will include listening to your heart and lungs, checking your lymph nodes and examining specific affected areas of the body.
    • Additional tests. To rule out other potential causes of your symptoms, your provider will likely recommend a panel of tests. These may include blood and urine tests, a chest X-ray of the heart and lungs, a CT scan of the lungs, pulmonary function tests to determine how efficiently your lungs are working, and an electrocardiogram to detect potential heart problems. A biopsy may also be recommended to analyze a sample of tissue in the part of the body your provider believes is affected. These biopsies look for the presence of granulomas.
  • Treatment

    • No curative treatment for sarcoidosis is known, and in many cases, the condition resolves on its own. Treatment aims to alleviate specific symptoms and resolve the underlying inflammation that causes sarcoidosis.
    • Corticosteroids, either in oral or intravenous form, may be used to help limit the immune system response that causes inflammation. In some cases, these medications may even be applied directly to the affected area, for example to the eyes via drops or the skin using a cream.
    • Immune system-suppressing medications, such as methotrexate, may also be used as part of treatment to reduce inflammation.
    • Other medications may be used to treat skin lesions or help ease joint pain.
    • If respiratory symptoms occur, a medical provider may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to decrease symptoms and improve lung function.
    • Persistent heart arrhythmias as part of sarcoidosis may be treated using a cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator.
    • In severe cases involving lung, heart or liver damage, an organ transplant may be necessary.
  • Follow-up Care

    • Because treatment for sarcoidosis isn’t curative, ongoing care is required. Your medical provider will create a care plan that indicates how often you should be seen and what types of testing are required.
    • Healthy lifestyle habits are important following an episode of acute sarcoidosis. Your provider will likely recommend you commit to regular exercise, consume a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get enough quality sleep. Additional important steps include quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to dust and chemicals that can harm the lungs.