Sarcoidosis is a disease in which inflammation occurs in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, skin, or other tissues.
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.
There may be no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can involve almost any body part or organ system.
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.
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:
Bleeding from the lung tissue
Heart damage, leading to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms
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.